INDIANAPOLIS – Just after the Gwinnett Stripers (10-17) took a late lead, the Indianapolis Indians (14-12) burst into action on Saturday.
Indy scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and used six innings of one-run ball from starting pitcher Tyler Eppler to take down the Stripers at Victory Field, 4-2.
Eppler, save for giving up a triple and a RBI single in consecutive at-bats in the third, was fantastic.
The righty turned in six strong innings, limiting Gwinnett to that one run in the third on five hits and a walk. Eppler’s ERA is now at 2.64 with five starts of one earned run allowed or less.
Unfortunately for Eppler, the Tribe’s bats were doing much versus Striper pitching.
Indianapolis knocked Gwinnett starter Miguel Socolovich out after three innings by forcing him to throw 55 pitches, but could not generate any offense.
Philip Pfeifer pitches the next three frames for the visitors, with the Indians getting a run against him in the fourth. Three consecutive batters reached with one out, a walk and two singles, as Erich Weiss brought in the run that tied the score at 1-1.
Saturday’s game was locked up at a run each until the eighth, when an odd series of events allowed Gwinnett to take back the lead.
Indians reliever Josh Smoker issued a leadoff walk, never good, but it was what happened next that was different.
Tribe center fielder Austin Meadows made a great diving catch for out number one, but landed awkwardly and writhed in pain. Phil Gosselin, the Stripers’ runner on first base, took notice and alertly tagged up to second while Meadows was down. That heads up play paid off for Gwinnett when Carlos Franco singled to score a runner that otherwise probably would have been on first base.
Indy had a response, though.
Doubles from Kevin Kramer and Jose Osuna evened the score at 2-2. A walk and a hit by pitch then loaded the bases and forced a Stripers pitching change. Ezequiel Carrera didn’t fare much better, walking Ryan Lavarnway to force home the go-ahead run. Carrera did get Chris Bostick to hit into an unconventional 6-4-5 double play to end the inning, but a run scored before the final out was recorded to pad Indy’s lead at 4-2.
Johnny Hellweg entered to pitch the ninth for Indianapolis with a newfound lead and protected it with ease. Hellweg retired the Stripers in order, securing the victory for the home team.
Indy goes for three out of four on the homestand and a series win over Gwinnett on Sunday afternoon. Game time from downtown Indianapolis is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. with Clay Holmes (1-0, 3.38 ERA) slated to pitch.