The Indianapolis Indians (10-5) battled back from an early three-run deficit to take the lead in the top of the ninth, but ultimately saw their advantage fade as the Louisville Bats (8-6) re-tied the contest and hit a walk-off home run from LF Felix Perez in the bottom of the 10th to claim a 5-4 win on Thursday night at Louisville Slugger Field. The loss snapped the Tribe’s season-high tying five-game winning streak.
After clawing their way back to tie the contest 3-3 in the sixth, the Tribe finally snagged its first lead of the night in the top of the ninth inning. C Tony Sanchez quickly turned an 0-1 offering into a leadoff single to left, and as he trotted through first base, the backstop was relieved on the paths for pinch runner Darren Ford. The substitution proved to be crucial as Ford swiped both second and third base in the next two at-bats.
With the go-ahead run only 90 feet away, Louisville reliever RHP Kevin Whelan was called for a balk, sending Ford plateward to give Indianapolis it’s first lead of the night, 4-3.
Unfortunately, the one-run advantage proved to be short lived as top prospect CF Billy Hamilton coaxed a one-out walk in the bottom of the frame, and, true to form, immediately stole second base. Following a strikeout by SS Jason Donald, the Bats found themselves down to their final out with 1B Neftali Soto at the plate. Soto, who finished the contest with three hits, sent the game to extra innings with a two-out single that drove in Hamilton and tied the score 4-4.
The Tribe threatened in its half of the 10th inning with two singles, but all promised fizzled as Louisville RHP Nick Christiani (1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, SO) induced a double play and strikeout to retire the side en route to his victory.
Indians reliever RHP Roman Colon (L, 0.1 IP, H, ER, SO) took over in the bottom of the 10th and collected a quick strikeout in his first appearance of the season. The right-hander then surrendered a one-out, walkoff home run to Felix Perez that sailed deep over the right field fence and gave the Bats a 5-4 victory.
In a back-and-forth battle, Louisville initially drew first blood in the opening frame, beginning with back-to-back singles from SS Jason Donald and 1B Neftali Soto, with Donald advancing to third when CF Felix Pie booted Soto’s base hit. Bats slugger 3B Mike Hessman then continued his torrid season at the plate as he drove in Donald for his 10th RBI of the season, giving the Bats an early 1-0 advantage. One batter later, 2B Henry Rodriguez padded Louisville’s lead with an RBI double that just landed fair inside the left-field line, plating Soto and making the score 2-0.
Despite the rocky start, Indians starter LHP Kris Johnson (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) settled down to allow only one more run, a solo shot in the second by Donald, through his 5.0 frames of work. The southpaw allowed just three base runners after the two-run first inning, only one of which reached safely via a base hit.
Louisville starter RHP Pedro Villarreal was dominant from the get-go, retiring 13 of the first 14 Tribe batters he faced. Villarreal (6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) did not allow a hit through the first four frames, but ran into trouble in the fifth when he opened the door for an Indianapolis rally with a one-out walk to RF Jerry Sands.
Sands, who had not collected a free pass in his first 10 contests, coaxed his second base-on-balls in as many games to put a runner on for C Tony Sanchez, who promptly moved Sands into scoring position with a liner to left field. 3B Ivan DeJesus Jr. then laced a single back up the middle to send Sands dashing around third andÂ all the way home, cutting the Tribe’s deficit 3-1.
Following a bunt from LHP Kris Johnson, 2B Josh Harrison legged out an infield single on a roller to SS Donald that allowed Sanchez to score and bring the Indians within 3-2.Â As Donald whipped a throw to first, DeJesus Jr. attempted to sneak home to tie the contest, but an on-point throw to the plate from 1B Neftali Soto allowed C Corky Miller to apply the tag to a sliding DeJesus Jr. and end the Indianapolis threat.
The Indians refused to say die, however, and immediately put the tying run on base in the sixth with a leadoff single from CF Felix Pie. The base knock was Pie’s sixth in his last six games, after the outfielder had previously produced just two hits through his first seven contests. The speedy center fielder then advanced to second on an infield groundout by SS Jordy Mercer, took third on a dribbler to first by LF Brandon Inge and finally scored on a two-out RBI single from 1B Matt Hague, tying the game at 3-3.
The Indians and Bats will continue their three-game set tomorrow at 6:35 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Field. Indianapolis is scheduled to send LHP Andy Oliver (0-0, 2.93) to the mound and Louisville is expected to start RHP Daniel Corcino (0-2, 7.27).
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