INDIANAPOLIS – Extra innings were in order at Victory Field on Tuesday, as the Gwinnett Stripers (22-27) and Indianapolis Indians (25-24) played ten innings.
The Stripers scored two runs in the sixth inning to even the score and then went on to plate the only run of the tenth inning, escaping with a 3-2 win over the Tribe. The loss sends Indy to their first three-game losing streak of the season, just days away from the month of June.
Indianapolis starting pitcher Tyler Eppler was solid yet again, but allowed the tying runs to score in that fateful sixth frame.
Eppler entered Tuesday’s game with eye-popping numbers at home. 3-0, 0.33 ERA in five appearances (four starts) at the Vic thus far in 2018. One earned run allowed in 27.2 innings pitched. 33 strikeouts.
The right-hander was once again cruising right along on this night, blanking the Stripers on just two hits and a walk through five innings. He also struck out seven batters. Entering the sixth inning, Gwinnett never brought more than four batters to the plate in any frames. But everything changed in that sixth inning.
Working with a 2-0 lead, Eppler begun the inning by getting Peter Bourjos to ground out. A four-pitch walk to Danny Santana followed, signaling the start of Eppler possibly running out of gas. Highly touted Braves prospect Austin Riley came up next and cut Indy’s lead in half, drilling a RBI double into the gap in left. Next up to bat was the International League’s RBI leader, Carlos Franco. He tied the game with his 39th RBI of the year, roping a double down the right field line.
Two batters later, Eppler’s night was over. His final line was still respectable, two runs allowed on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings, but it wasn’t quite on par with his past outings in Indianapolis.
Offensively, the Indians received a boost from Jose Osuna. Back in the lineup with the Indianapolis for the first time since May 6 following a big league promotion, Osuna knocked in the Tribe’s first run with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first. Indy got some more two-out production in the fourth, as Jacob Stallings brought Jordan Luplow home with a single to center field.
Following Gwinnett’s game-tying two-run sixth, Tuesday’s contest went into extra innings rather quietly. Once again, per Minor League Baseball’s new pace of play rules, runners were placed on second base to begin the tenth inning.
Rob Brantly was the Stripers’ man on base and he scored relatively quickly. Sal Giardina led off by pinch hitting and despite coming off of the bench cold, he singled to left. Bourjos then grounded to second, scoring Brantly while Giardina was forced out at second base. Tribe reliever Dovydas Neverauskas wiggled off the hook from there, bringing the Indians to bat trailing 3-2.
Taking second base to start the bottom of the tenth for Indianapolis was Kevin Kramer. Stallings led off by grounding out, with no advance from Kramer. Eric Wood dug in next and struck out swinging. Indy’s last chance came in the form of Wyatt Mathisen, but he struck out looking to end the game after an eight-pitch battle with Striper hurler Evan Phillips.
The Indians will look to bounce back on Wednesday, with another clash with the Stripers set for a 7:05 p.m. start.