In his Indianapolis debut, reliever Rick VandenHurk scattered five hits over five scoreless innings of relief while 1B Matt Hague provided all the offense the Tribe would need with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth as the Indians shut out the Norfolk Tides 1-0 in just 1 hour and 58 minutes in front of a crowd of 13,394 on Monday afternoon at Victory Field.
In his first day in an Indians uniform, VandenHurk (5.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO) struck out four and did not a walk a single batter over five solid innings to earn the victory. VandenHurk was able to hold down the Norfolk offense thanks to some excellent defense behind him, including diving catches from 2B Jordy Mercer and RF Brandon Boggs as well as excellent all-around outfield defense from LF Starling Marte and CF Gorkys Hernandez.
Marte was the defensive star on Monday as the left fielder made a leaping catch in front of the fence and played balls perfectly off the outfield wall in the fifth and eighth innings to prevent potential Tides runs from crossing the plate.
VandenHurk came on in relief of Indians’ starter Justin Wilson (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO), who tossed three scoreless innings before exiting the contest in the top of the fourth. Tribe closer Doug Slaten (1.0 IP, 1 H) finished off the Indians win for his team-leading seventh save of the season and has now not allowed an earned run over his last 17.1 innings of work.
Norfolk starter Steve Johnson (8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO) was pinned with a tough luck loss as the right hander went a full eight innings and allowed only an unearned run. Johnson also struck out a season-high eight batters in his season-best eight innings of work, but still dropped to 1-3 on the season despite an excellent 2.74 ERA.
Despite collecting only three hits in the contest, the Indians would plate the only run they needed off Johnson in the bottom of the fourth. CF Gorkys Hernandez began what turned into the game-winning rally with a leadoff walk before a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Johnson allowed Hernandez to advance all the way to third, where he would later score on Hague’s sac fly.
Two of the three Indians base knocks came from DH Jeff Clement, while the third came from 3B Jeff Larish, who ripped a fifth-inning double for his first hit in a Tribe uniform. The contest also saw the end of two impressive hitting streaks as 2B Jordy Mercer saw his career-best 14-game streak come to an end while, despite a walk and run scored, Gorkys Hernandez had his six-game streak come to a close as well.
The Indians (22-15) now take to the road for an eight-game trip beginning with a contest in Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. LHP Jeff Locke is expected to make the start for Tribe, while the IronPigs are scheduled to counter with RHP Tyler Cloyd.