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Indians Hammered By Columbus on Snowy Opening Night, 11-4

A view from the press box shows Victory Field’s outfield grass collecting some snow on a frigid Opening Night.

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.

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