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Baseball returns, Columbus spoils Indians Home Opener

by Brian Jessen

There are signs of spring (FINALLY!) in Indianapolis.  People walking the Canal, the grasses are cut along 16th Street by the Speedway and the crack of a wooden bat followed by a loud cheer erupts froom Victory Field.

Yes Indianapolis, baseball is back.

The Indianapolis Indians began their International League West Division title defense last night as they hosted division rival Columbus Clippers in their 2013 Season Opener.  With an announced crowd of 12,769 was on hand, the Tribe had their hands full.  Overall, the Indians have gone 3-2 against Columbus on Opening Day, and are 2-1 when facing the Clippers in the season’s first home game.

But in their favor, the Tribe has been tough to beat at Victory Field early in the season, posting a 12-5 record in the season’s home opener, and a 6-2 record on Opening Day in Indianapolis.  But that didn’t hold true last night.

A scoreless ballgame going into the 8th inning when Clippers designated hitter Jeremy Hermida hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Mike Zagurski for a grand slam in the eighth inning for the game’s only runs. The Indians had just three hits.

New Tribe  HP Andy Oliver took to the rubber for the Tribe in the opener.  The southpaw was acquired from the Detroit Tigers last December.  Oliver started 18 straight games last season before making nine of his final 10 appearances in relief.  Overall in 2012, the lefty went 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA (64 ER in 118.0 IP) in 28 games (19 starts).

Oliver (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO) appeared sharp and focused in an impressive performance in his Indians’ debut, striking out six while allowing just two hits over 6 scoreless innings. Oliver dominated out of the gate, allowing just one hit over the first five innings of the game, but ultimately did not figure in the final decision as Columbus held down the Tribe bats.

RHP Vic Black had an impressive start to his Triple-A career, striking out the side in the seventh inning after surrendering a lead-off single. However, his second inning would not go as well as his first, when a lead-off walk to LF Cedric Hunter, base hit to CF Tim Fedroff and an intentional walk forced by a passed ball loaded the bases in the top of the eighth.

The Tribe pulled Black, who has struggled with control problems throughout his career. Skipper Dean Treanor and Pitching Coach Tom Filer made the call for veteran reliever Mike Zagurski, who on his first pitch of the night, surrendered a mammoth grand slam home run off the bat of Hermida. The longball ultimately pinned Black with the loss, dropping his record to 0-1.

The loss was the Indians sixth straight Opening Day defeat, but they will look to bounce back in game two of the four-game season-opening series with Columbus on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. at Victory Field.

Photo Credit: Brian Groce

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