COLUMBUS, OH – Yu Chang saved the Columbus Clippers (41-39) on Saturday night, as the Clips saw a lead as large as seven runs evaporate.
The Indianapolis Indians (43-36) trailed 7-0 and then 8-2 before roaring back to tie the score at 9-9 with two outs in the top of the ninth. Columbus ruined Indy’s furious rally, however, as Chang homered in the bottom of the ninth to give the home team a 10-9 victory.
Starting pitcher Mitch Keller, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top rated prospect, was on the mound for the Tribe on Saturday for his Triple-A debut. It was a rocky first outing in a Tribe uniform for the 22-year-old.
Keller, who earned a promotion by going 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his last four Double-A starts, was hit hard by the Clippers’ Triple-A batters.
In the bottom of the first, four of Columbus’ first five batters recorded hits to give the home team a 4-0 lead. Eric Haase’s three-run homer capped the four-run frame.
Then in inning number two, a single and a walk led to a pair of doubles that made the score 7-0. It was Haase that once again provided the pop, as his two-run double firmly out the Clippers in front.
Finally in the third, three singles and a walk guided Columbus to a 8-2 edge. Greg Allen’s RBI single came with two outs and signaled the end of Keller’s night.
The final line for Keller was not a pretty one. Eight runs allowed on ten hits and two walks in 2.2 innings of work.
It was a forgettable evening for the right-hander. New career highs were set, but they were the wrong type of highs. His eight runs allowed surpassed his previous worst of seven. Ten hits allowed eclipsed his old high of nine. Lastly, his 2.2 innings pitched were a season low by a full 1.2 frames.
Trailing 8-2 after three innings of play, the Indians had a lot of work to do to get back into the ballgame.
They began chipping away with three runs in the fourth. Three singles and two walks fueled Indianapolis in the top of frame, allowing the visitors to trim their deficit in half at 8-5. Adam Frazier, Jordan Luplow and Kevin Kramer picked up RBIs in the inning.
Haase homered again to make it 9-5 in the home team’s half of the fourth, but it was 9-6 after the Tribe batted in the fifth. With two outs, Pablo Reyes doubled and Kevin Newman singled to plate another run for Indy. Another run scored in the sixth brought the Indians back to within two runs. Luplow led off with a single and maneuvered his way around the bases until Jason Martin singled him home to make it 9-7.
Columbus clung to that two-run cushion until the top of the ninth, when the Indians struck in the clutch.
Indy’s first two batters went down quietly, leaving them one out away from a loss. But Jerrick Suiter kept hope alive with a two-strike single to right, bringing Jackson Williams to the plate. Williams mashed the first pitch he saw over the left field fence, shockingly tying the score at nine runs each. It was Williams’ first home run of 2018 and just his 19th at-bat of the year with Indy.
For all of the work Indianapolis did to draw the game even, it all went down the drain with one swing in the bottom of the ninth. Haase struck out to start the inning, but Chang didn’t, clubbing a walk-off homer off of Indians reliever Josh Smoker to hand the Clippers a thrilling win.
The Tribe will look to avoid a four-game sweep at Huntington Park on Sunday afternoon. Game time is slated for 2:05 p.m. with Tyler Eppler (8-3, 3.14 ERA) penciled in to pitch for Indianapolis.