INDIANAPOLIS – With wind chills in the mid-teens and snowflakes falling throughout the evening, we didn’t have ideal baseball weather at Victory Field on Friday. What the Indianapolis Indians (0-1) encountered in the sixth inning of this game wasn’t too ideal, either.
The Columbus Clippers (1-0), who were shut out on one hit through Friday’s first five innings, exploded for nine runs in a game-deciding sixth frame. Columbus sent 14 batters to the dish in the inning, ruining what was a promising first start of 2018 for Tribe starting pitcher Nick Kingham.
The Indians drop to 1-5 against the Clips in season-opening contests (since 1997). With the loss, Indy also failed to make it back-to-back Opening Day wins following 2017’s victory over Toledo. Indianapolis last won consecutive season openers between 2003-05, when they won three in a row.
Kingham had it going – five innings of work, one hit, no runs allowed and ten strikeouts (tying his career-high) – but he didn’t earn that line without some troubles.
The righty walked three batters, and hit another, inflating his pitch count to 90 in a hurry. Columbus’ best chance to score came in the third, when they loaded the bases. A double, plus two free passes, left the bags full with Clippers with two outs. Kingham locked in and got an inning-ending strikeout looking to fan the side, his second frame in which he struck out the side.
Indy staked their bullpen with a 2-0 lead. In the fourth inning of a scoreless game, Jose Osuna doubled and Jordan Luplow singled in front of Max Moroff. Moroff followed with a double of his own and after Jacob Stallings recorded a sacrifice fly, the Indians were up by a pair of runs.
Replacing Kingham for the sixth was Tanner Anderson. He would leave the Tribe’s lead in shambles after recording just two outs.
Anderson surrendered two singles and a walk to quickly load the bases, but had an opportunity to escape unscathed after getting a line out. Yu Chang smashed a liner back to Anderson, who knocked the ball down. Everyone was safe, making it a 2-1 game. If Anderson had not instinctively swatted at the ball, the play may have resulted in an inning-ending double play. Instead, it opened the floodgates.
Brandon Barnes next grounded into a force out at third, but Jose Osuna threw the ball away trying to get an inning-ending double play on that grounder. Two runs scored, giving the Clippers a 3-2 lead. Anderson followed by hitting Adam Rosales with a pitch, forcing new Indians manager Brian Esposito to call on the bullpen.
Hit by pitch. Two-run single. Walk. And finally, a grand slam from former major leaguer Mike Napoli. That was the damage Columbus did against new pitcher Brett McKinney to seize a comfortable 9-2 advantage.
The Indians did get a run back in the sixth against Clips starter Shawn Morimando (who gave up just two earned runs in six innings pitched). Moroff got RBI number two, a sac fly to center, but it wasn’t nearly enough for a comeback from the home team.
Columbus added runs in the seventh and eighth, while the Tribe got a run in the bottom of the eighth, taking us to our final score of 11-4.
Indianapolis’ season-opening homestand continues on Saturday with a 7:05 p.m. date with the Clippers. Tyler Eppler gets the ball for the Indians.
Cory Dawson is the Indianapolis Indians Beat Writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Indianapolis Indians with full media access. You can follow @corydawson3 and @IndySportsRep on Twitter.
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