CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It was beginning to look bleak, but the Indianapolis Indians (37-30) found a way to pull it out on Saturday.
Indy held a four-run lead entering the bottom of the ninth, but just barely held on as the Charlotte Knights (30-37) rallied and had the winning runs in scoring position. The Tribe did walk away with the 6-5 win, though, leading to a rubber game at BB&T Ballpark on Sunday.
Eury Perez helped the Indians get on the board first on Saturday. His third inning double, followed by a stolen base, allowed Chris Bostick to drive him in with a RBI groundout.
Steven Brault, who entered Saturday’s contest as the International League’s ERA leader, got the ball for Indy.
He tossed three shutout frame to start his evening, but the Knights plated two runs against him in the fourth to take the lead. Consecutive singles to open the frame got things going for Charlotte and after a groundout moved the runners up, back-t0-back RBI knocks from Nicky Delmonico and Rymer Liriano gave the home team a 2-1 advantage.
Brault ended up working six strong innings for the Tribe, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk. The lefty’s ERA now sits at 2.18, still good for the IL lead.
Indianapolis’ offense put Brault in line for a win with single runs scored in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Phil Gosselin singled in the fifth to tie the game, Gift Ngoepe handed the Indians a 3-2 lead with a sixth-inning RBI triple and Gosselin extended Indy’s cushion to 4-2 with a run-scoring double in the seventh.
He would not know it at the time, but Eric Wood provided some much need insurance in the top of the ninth. The Tribe’s third baseman connected on a big two-run homer, his seventh of the year, to push the visiting Indians ahead 6-2.
Wood’s homer proved to be ultra important, as the Indianapolis bullpen nearly melted down entirely in the bottom of the ninth.
Johnny Barbato climbed the mound for the Indians in the ninth, retiring the first batter he faced, before trouble ensued. Cody Asche and Roberto Pena followed with back-to-back one-out home runs for Charlotte, cutting Indy’s lead in half in a hurry. Then after Barbato walked Everth Cabrera, Tribe manager Andy Barkett called on Dovydas Neverauskas.
Neverauskas struck out the first batter he faced, but quickly found that the Knights loaded the bases with a single and a drawn walk. Charlotte managed to make it a 6-5 game when Neverauskas forced in a run by walking Delmonico, but Indy’s reliever successfully ended Indianapolis’ ninth inning nightmare by getting Jacob May to strike out swinging to end the ballgame.
Despite a crazy finish, Brault did earn his fifth win and Neverauskas recorded his sixth save in an Indians win.
The Tribe and Knights will wrap up their three-game set on Sunday afternoon with a series victory on the line. First pitch from Charlotte is set for 2:05 p.m. with Tyler Eppler (5-2, 3.22 ERA) penciled in to take the ball for Indy.