TOLEDO, OH – As proven by the Indianapolis Indians (41-33) on Monday, it’s never over until it’s over.
Indy was down by two runs and down to their final strike, but escaped with a thrilling 5-4 win over the Toledo Mud Hens (44-31). Jordan Luplow cleared the bases for the Tribe with the game on the line, giving the Indians a huge victory over Toledo that brings them within 2.5 games of the first place Hens.
Starting pitcher Nick Kingham has looked good since returning to Indianapolis, with Monday being no different. Two simple swings of the bat hurt the right-hander in this contest, though.
In the second inning, former Indian Edwin Espinal homered to give Toledo a 1-0 lead. Then in the third, Christin Stewart hit his International League-leading 15th home run to shoot the Mud Hens ahead by two runs.
Outside of those two long balls, Kingham held the Hens to one hit and two walks through his 5.2 innings of work. His nine strikeouts were one shy of tying his season high and were his most since striking out nine St. Louis Cardinals in his major league debut on April 29.
Trailing 2-0, Indy’s bats woke up to tie the game.
Kevin Kramer tripled with one out in the fourth, allowing Wyatt Mathisen‘s single to shave the Tribe’s deficit down to 2-1. Then in the sixth, it was Kramer leading off with a double. Mathisen singled again, putting runners on the corners for Max Moroff. He tied the game up, singling to left to make it 2-2.
Toledo reclaimed their lead, though, thanks to Indy’s inability to find the plate.
Dovydas Neverauskas took over for Kingham with two outs in the sixth, walking a batter before ending the inning. That two-out walk was a sign of things to come in the seventh.
Neverauskas started the seventh by walking consecutive batters. He got Pete Kozma to fly out for out number one and forced Mikie Mahtook to ground out, setting the stage for an intentional walk to load the bases. Neverauskas then walked Ronny Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch, giving Toledo a 3-2 lead.
That was it for Neverauskas, as Damien Magnifico replaced him. Only Magnifico uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch and walked one more batter before wiggling off of the hook with a strikeout.
With their backs against the wall, Indianapolis rallied in an eventful top of the ninth.
Just like the Mud Hens were helped by the Tribe’s wildness in the seventh, the Indians used consecutive walks in the ninth to spark a comeback. Even after Toledo walked the first two batters of the ninth, a strikeout and a force at second base left the Hens one out away from victory. Indy just wouldn’t go down, however.
Another walk loaded the bases with two outs for Luplow, who was down to his last strike when he delivered the big hit. Luplow singled to left, scoring the tying runs before an error gave the Indians the lead. Stewart made a throwing error from left field as Luplow took an extra base, allowing Chris Bostick to race home and give Indianapolis a 5-4 edge.
There was still the bottom of the ninth to take care of, which wasn’t a given for the Tribe on this night.
Tanner Anderson was chosen to try to close out the ballgame for the visitors and quickly ran into trouble. Mahtook was hit by a pitch to start the frame. Stewart looked to make up for his error by singling next. But Rodriguez grounded into a double play and Jim Adduci flied out to right, sealing a massive win for the Indians.
Game two of this series from Toledo is scheduled to get underway at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. Tyler Eppler (7-3, 3.41 ERA) gets the nod for Indianapolis.