After Indianapolis starter Jo-Jo Reyes left the game after just one inning, the Indians bullpen picked up the slack on Tuesday afternoon as three Tribe relief pitchers combined for eight innings of work in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.
Looking for a getaway day victory and series win against Buffalo, the Indians were put in a tough spot when the reliable Reyes walked off the field prior to the second inning. With Reyes (1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K), who had been 5-1 with a 1.69 ERA as a starter, out of the picture, Indians manager Dean Treanor turned to LHP Kris Johnson, who has at times this season been the Tribe’s go-to man for a spot start or for long relief. In a pinch, Johnson (3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K) put together his longest outing of the season for Indianapolis and picked up the win, his first of the season, despite allowing a pair of runs.
Both of those Buffalo runs scored in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a walk and back-to-back singles loaded the bases with no outs, back-to-back groundouts scored RF Valentino Pascucci and SS Omar Quintanilla. Johnson then induced a lineout to left field to end the threat and would allow just one more baserunner during the rest of his outing.
RHP Bryan Morris (2.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K) tossed two innings in relief of Johnson, allowing the final Bisons run of the ballgame in the bottom of the seventh inning when CF Corey Wimberly scored on a two-out, bases-loaded single by 3B Matt Tuiasosopo. The two-inning outing was the ninth time in ten games that Morris has pitched more than 1.0 inning.
The final Indianapolis pitcher of the afternoon was RHP Tim Wood (2.1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K), who earned his second save of the season and first since April 18. Wood allowed a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth but nothing else and is now 2-0 with a save and a 0.52 ERA in outings lasting longer than one inning.
The Indians got on the board often early, scoring two runs in the first inning and one in each the second and third. 2B Anderson Hernandez and LF Alex Presley got the scoring started in the top of the first inning as the Tribe took a 2-0 lead when both runners scored on the combination of a wild pitch and throwing error.
The Indians added another run in the second inning when SS Jordy Mercer singled to lead off the frame and eventually scored on C Eric Fryer’s sacrifice fly to right field, just the backstop’s second RBI of the season. Indianapolis extended the lead to 4-0 when CF Starling Marte led off the third inning with a single, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error before scoring on Hernandez’s RBI single to center.
Marte would finish the contest and game-high 3-for-4 and has now collected five hits and scored three runs over his last two games. The speedy outfielder also stole second each time he reached base, extending his team-best steals total to 13.
After the Bisons closed the gap to 4-3 against Johnson and Morris, the Indians added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning. The first came on 3B Matt Hague’s first home run of the season, a leadoff shot over the center-field fence that gave the Tribe a 5-3 lead.
The final run of the game was scored on a would-be inning-ending double play off the bat of Fryer. However, after the Bisons forced out a runner at second base, Fryer was safe at first and advanced all the way to second on a throwing error. The misplay allowed 1B Jeff Clement to score, giving the Indians their final 6-3 advantage.
Buffalo starter Chris Schwinden (4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) took the loss, falling to 3-3 on the season. Relief pitchers Justin Hampson (3.0 IP, 2 H, 3 K) and Josh Edgin (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 K) combined for five innings out of the Bisons bullpen.
Indianapolis improves to to 25-20 with the getaway day win, maintaining first place in the International League West Division, while Buffalo falls to 26-20. The Indians have Wednesday off and return to action on Thursday night at Victory Field, facing the divison-rival Louisville Bats in the first game of a two-game series, with the first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. The Tribe is expected to send LHP Rudy Owens (2-2, 2.50) to the mound while the Bats will likely counter with LHP Jeff Francis (2-5, 4.45).