Trailing 4-2 entering the ninth inning, the Indianapolis offense would explode for seven runs on five hits highlighted by a game-tying two-run home run from third baseman Jordy Mercer and grand slam from center fielder Starling Marte that propelled the Indians past the Louisville Bats 9-4 on Sunday night at Louisville Slugger Field.
Over the first six innings of Sunday night’s contest the Indians offense was nonexistent, being held to no runs on just three hits by Louisville starter Chad Reineke. However, all that would change over the final three innings as the Tribe finished out the contest with nine runs on eight hits, including a seven-run explosion in the game’s final frame.
Though the seven-run ninth inning outburst would give the Indians an exciting blow-out victory, it all started with two key singles scores in the seventh and eighth frames that put the Tribe with-in striking distance. LF Jeff Larish, who has begun to heat up for the Tribe as of late, led off the seventh with a walk before moving to third base when 1B Jeff Clement followed with base hit to right.
RF Brandon Boggs would eventually plate Larish with a sacrifice fly later in the frame to even the score at 1-1. However, the Bats who took an initial lead thanks to a solo home run from 1B Neftali Soto in the sixth inning, would put together what looked to be a game-winning rally in the bottom of the seventh with three scores on an RBI double from 2B Cody Puckett and a two-run fielding error.
But the Indians would not go away quietly on this night. After entering the game in a double switch in the bottom of the seventh, RF Alex Presley would come through with a key confidence booster when he belted a solo home run to right field to lead off the eighth to draw the Tribe with-in two scores at 4-2.
The blast from Presley began a power surge by the Tribe that continued when Clement led off the top of the ninth with a double to right before travelling on Mercer’s two-run longball that tied the score at 4-4. Walks to pinch hitter Jose Morales and C Kris Watts sandwiching a single from 2B Anderson Hernandez would then set the stage for Presley who came through with what turned out to be a game-winning fielder’s choice.
Presley’s game-winner was however quickly overshadowed as Marte stepped to the plate and launched a mammoth grand slam home run to left field to give the contest its final score of 9-4. Thanks to late inning offensive breakout, five different Tribe batters collected multiple hits with Mercer (2-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI), Marte (2-for-5, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and Presley (1-for-2, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI) all also coming through with multi-RBI performances.
Not to be overlooked by all the late offensive fireworks, Tribe starter Jeff Locke (6.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO) struck out an Indians season high 11 batters in just 6.1 innings of work. Following Locke, Tribe relievers’s Evan Meek (1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO) and Tim Wood (1.0 IP, 2 SO) combined to allow just one unearned run in 2.2 innings of relief with Meek earning the victory to improve to 1-0 on the season.
With the Indianapolis offense spoiling an excellent effort from Reineke (7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO), Bats reliever Travis Webb (0.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO) would suffer the loss to fall to 2-3 on the season after surrendering four runs without recording an out.
The Indians (28-21) now return home for an eight-game homestand beginning with a special 6:05 p.m. Memorial Day contest on Monday against the Durham Bulls. RHP Daniel Cabrera is expected to take the mound for Indianapolis, while Durham is scheduled to counter with RHP Jim Paduch.