LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Left-handed ace Kris Johnson did everything he could to pilot the Tribe to a victory as he worked 7.0 shutout innings while receiving a two-run cushion on a homer from right fielder Andrew Lambo, but the Louisville Bats (48-48) mounted a late rally to plate three runs over the final two innings and claim a 3-2 walk-off win over the Indianapolis Indians (59-35) on Thursday night at Louisville Slugger Field. The Bats’ comeback marked their third walk-off win over the Tribe during the 2013 season.
Holding a 2-0 lead and having kept Louisville off the scoreboard through the first seven innings, the Indians appeared to be poised to cruise through the contest’s final two frames to pick up the win. However, with their backs against the wall, Louisville gleefully watched starter Johnson depart from the contest as it began to mount its three-run comeback.
Down to their final six outs, the Bats launched their rally with a leadoff walk from PH Josh Felhauer, and after CF Billy Hamilton was punched out, RHP Erik Cordier (BS, 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, SO) uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the runner to advance into scoring position. SS Emanuel Burriss then landed a single in left to put runners on the corners and set the stage for 3B Neftali Soto, who answered the call by smashing a two-run double that erased the Indians lead and tied the score 2-2.
The Tribe didn’t have much of a chance to answer in the ninth as RHP Kevin Wheelan (W, 1.0 IP, BB, 3 SO) struck out the side to keep the contest deadlocked at 2-2. The Indians weren’t as fortunate in the home half of the frame as RHP Tim Alderson (L, 0.1 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, SO) immediately found himself in trouble courtesy of back-to-back singles from RF Denis Phipps and LF Felif Perez. With two men aboard, the visiting team elected to intentionally walk C Nevin Ashley to load the bases with no outs, but the strategy backfired as Kristopher Negron lifted a pinch-hit RBI single to right that sent the Bats to a 3-2 walk-off win over the Tribe.
From the onset, the two Clubs were locked in a scoreless pitchers duel with Indianapolis’ starter holding the upper hand. The All-Star Johnson (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, BB, 3 SO) again demonstrated his credentials as the team’s ace, delivering his sixth straight quality start by working 7.0 shutout innings in which he surrendered just four base knocks while striking out three. The Tribe’s southpaw needed just 97 pitches as he mowed through the Bats lineup, facing only five batters above the minimum while not allowing an extra-base hit. Johnson retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, but was ultimately saddled with a no-decision thanks to the Bats’ late comeback.
Including tonight’s lights-out performance, the dominant southpaw further lowered his phenomenal ERA to 2.66 this year, which now ranks as the second-best mark in the league, trailing only Louisville’s Greg Reynolds by a mere .04 points. Johnson’s effort tonight also continued his hot stretch since the beginning of June, in which he has recorded a league-best 1.54 ERA with just eight earned runs over 46.2 innings pitched, walking only eight batters while fanning 30.
Johnson’s performance was nearly matched by his counterpart, RHP Daniel Corcino (7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO), who kept an equal pace with the visiting lefty over the first six frames. In fact, despite allowing two more earned runs, Louisville’s starter held the Tribe to fewer hits than Johnson through 7.0 innings, including opening the contest with four straight no-hit frames. Although he authored a quality start of his own, Corcino was tagged for two runs on three hits before departing the contest prior to the eighth inning.
After eking out just one base knock through the first six frames, the Indians finally drew first blood in the seventh when The Hit Collector Matt Hague lined a leadoff single to quickly put a runner aboard. One batter later, C Tony Sanchez blooped in what should have been a single, however Hague was caught between first and second as the fly ball hung in the air, allowing RF Denis Phipps to force the runner out at second to prevent Hague from advancing into scoring position.
With one down and Sanchez standing on first, Lambo broke the scoreless tie by obliterating a two-run homer that sailed over the right-field wall and put Indianapolis up 2-0. The homer was Lambo’s eighth with the Tribe and 22nd of the season, which is tied for the eighth-most among all of Minor League baseball, while his pair of RBI marked his 72nd total runs driven in, good for a tie of the fifth-most RBI in the Minors in 2013.
The two-run uprising proved to be all the offense Indianapolis’ sputtering bats could muster, and along with seeing their late-lead disappear, the Tribe’s bats were outhit 9-4 in Thursday’s contest.
The Tribe will now conclude its brief two-game set in Louisville on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Field. RHP Stolmy Pimentel (1-1, 3.48) is expected to get the start for Indianapolis while RHP Greg Reynolds (10-1, 2.62) is scheduled to take the mound for the Bats.
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