Tribe starting pitcher Jeff Locke kept spectators on the edge of their seats giving up seven hits over six innings on Wednesday afternoon, but struck out eight and repeatedly pitched out of jams on his way to victory, while reliever Doug Slaten slammed the door on a late Columbus rally as the Indianapolis Indians held off the Clippers 4-3 at Victory Field.
Locke (W, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) pitched into and out of trouble often in the early innings, including the first. After CF Ezequiel Carrera drew a walk to lead off the ballgame, 2B Cord Phelps launched a double to right field and put runners on second a third with none out, but Locke induced a fly out to shallow left and picked up two strikeouts to strand Carrera and Phelps.
Locke lived dangerously in every inning of his outing, allowing at least one baserunner in each. Only in the top of the fifth did a Clippers baserunner not reach scoring position., but Locke allowed only one run, in the top of the sixth, when 1B Matt LaPorta doubled to lead off the frame and came across the plate on a two-out single to the hole at third base by DH Ryan Spilborghs.
By that time, Indianapolis had already provided all the offense Locke would need. After the Indians were retired in order in the first and second innings, RF Brandon Boggs led off the bottom of the third with a single and scored from first on a one-out double by CF Gorkys Hernandez to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The Tribes added some insurance in the bottom of the fifth as back-to-back doubles by DH Nick Evans and Boggs started the frame and made it 2-0 in favor of Indianapolis. Boggs would later take third on C Eric Fryer’s fly out, but was caught wandering on a Hernandez groundball, eventually being forced out 6-2-5-2-6. However, the rundown allowed Hernandez to make it all the way to second.
LF Starling Marte then laid down a bunt single, advancing to second on a throwing error that also allowed Hernandez to score and gave the Tribe a 3-0 lead. Marte promptly stole third base and then scored on 2B Brian Friday’s double to left field to extend the Indians advantage to 4-0.
Those insurance runs came in handy in the top of the sixth inning, when RHP Bryan Morris (0.0+ IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K) entered the game in relief of Locke and immediately gave up back-to-back-to-back doubles to SS Gregorio Petit, Carerra and Phelps to cut the Indianapolis lead to 4-3.
Morris exited without recording an out and Slaten (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) took the hill in an effort to stop the bleeding. Slaten took advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup to strikeout 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, before Fryer caught Phelps trying to steal third for the second out. Slaten then induced a foul popout to escape the inning with the lead.
That lead would stand, but not without some dramatics in the top of the ninth. RHP Tim Wood (SV, 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) took the bump for the Indians and promptly gave up a lead off single to pinch hitter Trevor Crowe. After a strikeout, Carerra worked a nine-pitch walk to put runners on first and second but Wood got Phelps — who had been 4-for-4 on the day, to ground into a 4-6-3 game-ending double play, sealing the 4-3 win for Indianapolis and picking up his first save of the year.
Columbus starter Scott Barnes (L, 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) took the loss, falling to 0-3 on the season. Locke improved to 1-1 with the victory and Slaten earned his first hold of the year.
The Indians and Clippers get back at it tomorrow morning, with a start time of 11:05 a.m. due to the Baseball in Education promotion. RHP Brad Lincoln (1-0, 2.50) was expected to make the start for Indianapolis but was recalled to the Pittsburgh Pirates shortly before the start of Wednesday’s game, so RHP Daniel McCutchen is now slated to start in his place. Columbus is expected to send RHP Zach McAllister (0-1, 4.00) to the hill for his fourth start of the season.