The Columbus Clippers capitalized on a six-hit inning in the bottom of the fifth on the strength of RBI-singles by catcher Luke Carlin, center fielder Ezequiel Carrera and first baseman Russ Canzler to build a one-run advantage they would not relinquish as they went on to defeat the Indianapolis Indians 5-4 in a back-and-forth affair on Thursday afternoon at Huntington Park.
Columbus started the scoring in the bottom of the first when 2B Cord Phelps tripled on a hard-hit ball off the center field wall and was driven home by DH Matt LaPorta’s sacrifice fly that gave the Clippers a 1-0 lead.
The Indians immediately knotted the score in the top of the second, manufacturing a run to make it 1-1. LF Eric Fryer led off the frame with a single to center field, advanced to second when 2B Brian Friday was hit by a pitch, advanced the third on a sac bunt by 3B Anderson Hernandez and scored on C Kris Watts’ RBI-groundout.
In the bottom of the second, Chad Huffman got the run back all by himself for Columbus, launching a solo home run off of Indians starter Jeff Locke to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Clippers.
The score remained the same until the top of the fifth inning when Watts walked and Friday was hit by another pitch to set up SS Jordy Mercer’s three-run home run. It was Mercer’s second long ball of the season and gave the Tribe a 4-2 lead.
That lead would be short-lived.
Columbus got infield singles from LF Ryan Spilborghs and Huffman to lead off the bottom of the fifth and an RBI-single by Carlin to make it 4-3 in favor of the Indians with no outs.
After a strikeout, Carrera hit a bloop single to left that drove in Huffman and tied the game at 4-4. Phelps then singled to load the bases before a second strikeout brought up Canzler with the bases loaded and two outs.
Canzler hit a flyball single to center field to drive in pinch runner Matt Pagnozzi and give the Clippers the final 5-4 advantage. Carrera also tried to score on the hit, but was thrown out at the plate by CF Starling Marte to end the inning.
Indianapolis had it best chance to tie the game in the top of the seventh, when Marte reached on a fielder’s choice and took second base on a wild pitch. Then, with two outs, Friday reached on a infield single, beating out a throw by Phelps.
On the play, Marte aggressively raced home, but was gunned down by a heads-up throw from Canzler to Pagnozzi, who had stayed in the game at catcher.
The inning ended when Marte’s head-first slide was too late the beat Pagnozzi’s tag, and Indianapolis never put another runner on base.
Columbus starter Corey Kluber (5.0 IP, 3 H 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO) picked up the win to improve to 2-0 on the season. Locke (5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) took the loss for the Tribe, falling to 0-1 on the season.
Clippers reliever Chris Ray pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his second save of the season, recording one strikeout in the final frame.
The Indians return to Indianapolis for the Tribe’s home opener on Friday night. The first pitch against the Toledo Mud Hens is scheduled for 7:15 and a fireworks display will take place following the game. RHP Brad Lincoln is expected to take the mound for the Indians, while the Mud Hens are scheduled to toss LHP Andy Oliver.