Kluber and Clippers knock off Tribe in series opener

The Indianapolis Indians offense was stymied by Columbus starter Corey Kluber, who struck out seven over six innings, while the Clippers scored an efficient five runs on eight hits — highlighted by Matt Pagnozzi’s solo home run — as the Tribe fell 5-1 on Tuesday night at Victory Field.

After both teams’ starters had thrown perfect first innings, Indians hurler Justin Wilson got two quick outs in the top of the second before giving up a walk to Columbus RF Chad Huffman after getting ahead in the count 0-2.

Wilson then gave up a double to DH Russ Canzler, an RBI-single to LF Ryan Spilborghs, a sac fly to C Matt Pagnozzi and a single to SS Justin Toole before finally getting out of the inning with a fly out to right. By the time all was said and done, the Clippers had taken a 2-0 lead.

The Indians had an opportunity to respond in the bottom of the frame but baserunning mistakes proved to be too costly.

After Indians C Kris Watts singled with one out, CF Gorkys Hernandez laid down a bunt and reached base on an error, making it to second while Watts advanced to third. LF Starling Marte was up next and swung through strike three, but the ball got away from Pagnozzi and Marte headed for first. Pagnozzi’s throw to first was late, but Hernandez had wandered too far off of second and 1B Matt LaPorta threw to Toole, who forced Hernandez toward third. Watts and Hernandez both occupied the bag, so Hernandez was called out with the putout credited to 3B Lonnie Chisenhall. A popout to Toole ended the inning and the Tribe’s rally attempt.

The Clippers added another run in the top of the third after LaPorta singled with two outs and moved to second on Huffman’s walk before scoring on a groundball off the bat of Canzler that was misplayed by 3B Matt Hague and then thrown away. Hague was charged with two errors on the play and Columbus took a 3-0 lead.

That lead would stand until the bottom of the fifth, when the Indians mounted another comeback attempt that was foiled in part by baserunning mistakes. Back-to-back-to-back singles by RF Brandon Boggs, Watts and Hernandez put runners on first and second and a run across the plate.

Marte then struck out and Hernandez was picked off of first base by Pagnozzi as the Indians quickly went from having two on with none out to having one on with two out. Tribe 2B Brian Friday would, however, reach on an error to put runners on the corners, but a lineout to Toole ended to inning and closed the book on the Indians scoring for the night.

Columbus added an insurance run in the top of the sixth on Pagnozzi’s solo home run to right and another in the top of the ninth when Pagnozzi led off the frame with a walk¬† and scored on a two-out double down the left field line by 2B Cord Phelps.

Boggs tried to spark a Tribe rally with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth but was forced out on a nifty 3-6 double play that ended the game. Indianapolis left seven men on base and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, managing only run one despite collecting seven hits

Columbus starter Corey Kluber (W, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) was impressive, moving to 3-0 on the season in three starts. Clippers relievers Chen Lee (H, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K) and Chris Ray (SV, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K) combined for three innings of scoreless baseball and allowed only one baserunner apiece.

Wilson (L, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR) couldn’t get the same damage control as the Columbus staff and suffered the loss after being hurt by walks and costly errors. Meanwhile, reliever Daniel McCutchen (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) was electric out of the Tribe bullpen tossing back-to-back scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth.

Despite failing collect in his second straight game after beginning the season on a nine-game hitting streak, LF Starling Marte brightened a dark night for Indianapolis with a highlight reel catch.  On a deep drive to left-center field, Marte adjusted at the last second to make an over the shoulder catch on a ball that was past him before wheeling around to double off a runner at first base.

The Indians and Clippers face off again on Wednesday with a business day special start time of 1:05 p.m. Indianapolis is likely to send LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 7.00) to the bump for his third start of the season while Columbus is expected to counter with RHP Scott Barnes (0-1, 4.09), who will also make his third start of 2012.

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