INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Indians‘ 2017 season came to a close in disappointing fashion on Saturday.
The Tribe held a 3-0 lead going into the sixth, but the Durham Bulls rallied to stun Indy and advance to the Governors’ Cup Finals with a 4-3 win at Victory Field. Durham wins the best-of-five semifinal series, 3-1, and moves on to take on the winner of the Scranton/Wilkes Barre versus Lehigh Valley series for a shot at an International League title.
Saturday’s Game 4 was a pitcher’s duel early on, as Indianapolis’ Drew Hutchison and Durham’s Brent Honeywell exchanged zeroes.
The Indians broke the deadlock in the fourth, as Erich Weiss‘ leadoff double set the tone. Honeywell came within an out of stranding Weiss on the base paths, but Jacob Stallings was able to drop a two-out single into right to give the Tribe a 1-0 advantage.
Indy struck again in the fifth, adding two runs on to their lead. Consecutive hits opened the inning, an Eric Wood double and a Gift Ngoepe single, to put the home team in business. Weiss then came through again for the Indians, ripping a two-run double into the gap in right center field. He was thrown out at third trying to stretch the knock into a triple, but the damage was still done.
Honeywell, the Tampa Bay Rays‘ top prospect, worked into the seventh for the Bulls. The right-hander finished with a final line of three runs allowed on nine hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings of work.
In need of another big start, Hutchison did enough for the Indians. Indianapolis’ righty surrendered two runs on five hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames pitched.
After being held off of the scoreboard through five innings, the Bulls showed signs of life and knocked Hutchison out of action in the sixth. Each of the first three batters Hutchison faced in the sixth reached, loading the bases, before Taylor Featherston grounded into a run-producing double play. Dan Runzler replaced Indy’s starter following the twin killing, but gave up a single to Kean Wong to make it 3-2.
Hutchison worked his way out of trouble all evening long and ultimately gave the home team a chance to force a Game 5, but the Tribe’s bullpen was unable to get it done.
Montana DuRapau turned in a scoreless eighth for the Indians, but things worsened in the eighth.
Jack Leathersich got a strikeout to start the eighth, but after a walk and a hit by pitch, he was pulled in favor of Johnny Barbato. Barbato got a fly out and then issued a bases loading walk before facing Justin O’Conner. Durham’s catcher, their number nine hitter, came up with the ballgame’s biggest hit. His single, laced straight up the middle, drove in Game 4’s winning runs.
The Indians went down quietly in the bottom of the eighth, but posed a threat in the ninth. Danny Ortiz led off with a single and after a sacrifice bunt, the tying run was in scoring position with one out. Edwin Espinal struck out swinging and Anderson Feliz grounded out, though, allowing the Bulls to put an end to the series with a 4-3 victory.
Despite the premature ending to their playoff run, it was still a successful season for Indianapolis.
The Tribe won their fourth IL West division championship in the past six years. Indy’s fans also showed fantastic support yet again. The Vic saw nearly 650,000 fans come through the gates in 2017, leading all of Minor League Baseball in attendance for a second straight season.
The Indians will open the 2018 regular season at Victory Field on Friday, April 6. They will take on their division rivals, the Columbus Clippers, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
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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