Left-handed starter Kris Johnson allowed just two earned runs over a career-high tying 7.0 innings of action, before center fielder Alex Presley dashed home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th to send the Indianapolis Indians (36-19) to a 3-2 walk-off win over the Pawtucket Red Sox (32-22) on Thursday night at Victory Field. With the victory, the Tribe remains unbeaten in series’ at home this year and will finish May with the most home wins in all of Minor League Baseball.
With the score even at 2-2 in the ninth, Pawtucket made things very interesting for RHP Erik Cordier (2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, SO) when Ball State University alumnus LF Jeremy Hazelbaker legged out a one-out infield single to second and dashed all the way to third on a base hit to left from CF Ronald Bermudez. As the go-ahead run stood just 90 feet away, former Tribe SS Brock Holt crushed a line drive to SS Chase d’Arnaud, who appeared to have corralled the shot for the second out of the inning.
Instead, the infield umpire ruled d’Arnaud had dropped the line drive and that the play was still alive. d’Arnaud then flipped the ball to second from his stomach for the second out of the frame, and 2B Ivan DeJesus completed the inning-ending double play by whipping a throw to third to have Hazelbaker tagged out in a run down.
After RHP Jared Hughes (W, 1.0 IP, 2 SO) worked a 1-2-3 top of the 10th, Indianapolis mounted its eventual game-winning rally in the bottom of the frame. DeJesus sparked the late uprising with a leadoff double in front of a single from Presley, that put runners on the corners with no outs. Pawtucket then elected to intentionally walk d’Arnaud to load the bases with DH Felix Pie at the plate, and the strategy initially appeared to pan out as Pie grounded into a fielder’s choice that resulted in DeJesus being forced out at home. Although an out had been recorded, the Red Sox were far from being out of the woods as they still found themselves in a bases-loaded situation with the winning run on third and slugger 1B Matt Hague at the plate. After firing two balls to Hague, RHP Alex Wilson (L, 1.1 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 2 SO) uncorked a wild pitch that scooted to the backstop to allow Presley to race home to give the Tribe a 3-2 walkoff victory in the bottom of the 10th. Â In desperate need of a solid start Thursday night, the Indians turned to southpaw Kris Johnson (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO), who answered the call with a fantastic outing in which he limited the PawSox to just two scores through a career-high tying 7.0 innings of work. The left-hander needed just 34 pitches to work through the evening’s first four frames and faced only one batter above the minimum in the first, second and third inning.
Overall, Johnson scattered seven hits throughout the evening, with only one going for extra-bases, a double from RF Bryce Brentz. Prior to exiting the contest, the left handed hurler finished his night in near identical fashion to how he began his stellar start, facing just one batter above the minimum in the sixth and seventh frames.
Although Johnson was touched for single scores in the fourth and fifth frames, he displayed excellent resilience by working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth. After surrendering an RBI double to RF Bryce Brentz in the fourth, Johnson opened the fifth by allowing three consecutive singles to Bermudez, Holt and Butler, the latter of which snuck through the infield for the definition of a seeing-eye single.
With the bases juiced and no outs, Johnson yielded an RBI walk to 2B Justin Henry that gave the PawSox a 2-1 lead. However, the left-hander immediately rebounded by inducing a 5-2-3 double play at home and first before ending the threat with a flyout from C Ryan Lavarnway.
Trailing by a lone score in the bottom of the sixth, the Tribe offered some offensive firepower in support of its starting southpaw. Following two quick outs to open the frame, LF Brett Carroll gave his thanks to Johnson as he smashed his team-leading ninth homer of the season, depositing a 3-0 offering over the left-field wall that knotted the contest at 2-2. Carroll’s solo shot was his first hit of the ball game, and snapped the outfielder’s recent 0-for-13 streak at the plate.
Johnson’s counterpart, RHP Steven Wright (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) did just enough to keep the Indians from breaking the game open through his 5.2 frames. The right-hander allowed two earned runs on six hits, while also walking three and fanning five, but more importantly, ended several Indians’ rallies with crucial strikeouts before the home team could post a crooked number on the scoreboard.
Indianapolis will now travel to Huntington Park for a four-game series against Columbus beginning tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. The Indians are scheduled to send RHP Gerrit Cole (3-3, 3.67) to the mound while the Clippers are scheduled to throw former Tribe RHP Joe Martinez (1-3, 5.65).
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