COLUMBUS, Oh. – In his first start with the Indianapolis Indians (59-50) since July 17, Steven Brault was solid. Unfortunately for Brault and the Tribe, he was outdone by the Columbus Clippers (57-51).
Richie Shaffer‘s three-run homer in the sixth was the difference, as the Clips got by Indy for a 3-2 win at Huntington Park. Columbus’ victory pulls them within a game and a half of the Indians in the International League West division standings with two games to go in this series.
Brault was promoted by the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 22 and made two appearances with the Buccos before being optioned back to Indianapolis on Monday. He picked up right where he left off with the Tribe.
Indy’s southpaw held the Clippers in check through five innings, surrendering just one hit. Things changed in the sixth, however. A single and a walk in the frame brought Tribe pitching coach Stan Kyles out for a meeting, but it did no good. Shaffer stepped up to the plate next and mashed a three-run shot, his 24th homer of the year, to shoot the home team ahead 3-0.
Brault got through the sixth, giving him a final line of three runs allowed on three hits and three walks in six innings pitched. The lefty took the loss, just his second since April 27.
Columbus countered with Ryan Merritt on the hill, who turned in six good frames of his own. The Clips’ southpaw limited the Indians to two hits and no walks, striking out four in arguably his best outing of 2017.
The Clippers’ bullpen just about unraveled in relief of Merritt, though.
Cole Sulser took over with a scoreless seventh, but the visitors knocked him out in the eighth. Singles from Elias Diaz and Gift Ngoepe put runners on base for Chris Bostick, who trimmed the Clips’ advantage down to 3-2 with a big two-run double. Sulser was replaced by Louis Head, who got Columbus out of the eighth, but nearly coughed up the lead in the ninth.
In the ninth, Head served up a single to Phil Gosselin and a double to Edwin Espinal, prompting an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. With the go-ahead run standing at second, Diaz followed by hitting into a game-ending double play, allowing the Clippers to survive for a huge series-opening win.
The middle game of this series is slated for a 7:05 p.m. start on Wednesday. Clay Holmes (7-5, 3.45 ERA) gets the nod for the Tribe as they aim to get a game back in the standings.