Tribe uses longball to muscle past Bats

The Tribe connected on four home runs, including two from designated hitter Jeff Clement and a game-winner from left fielder Alex Presley, as the Indianapolis Indians rode a three-run fifth inning to a 7-4 Memorial Day win over the Durham Bulls on Monday night at Victory Field.

Presley, who also had a seventh-inning single, now has 11 hits since joining the Indians on May 17. Seven of those 11 hits have gone for extra bases: one double, three triples and three homers. His fifth-inning two-run blast put Indianapolis ahead for good when it settled into the right-field stands, scoring Presley and SS Chase d’Arnaud, who had doubled.

After a groundout, 3B Jordy Mercer singled to set the stage for 1B Jeff Larish. Larish’s double down the right-field line allowed Mercer to score all the way from first, giving the Indians their final 7-4 advantage. Mercer also had a first-inning double, extending his hitting streak to eight games and putting his batting average above .300 for the first time since April 9, when he was 6-for-19 on the young season.

After RHP Daniel Cabrera (4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) lasted fewer than five innings for just the second time this season, lefty reliever Kris Johnson (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) worked three shutout innings, to earn the win and improve to 2-0 for the Tribe.

The Indians had started the scoring in an exciting bottom of the first inning. With one out, d’Arnaud tripled on a flyball to center field before Presley hit what seemed to be a harmless popout to shallow left field. However, with the Durham shortstop catching the ball and drifting into the outfield, d’Arnaud alertly tagged up and easily beat a hasty through the to plate, giving Presley a sac fly and the Indians a 1-0 lead.

Clement then smoked a two-out solo home run over the fence in straightaway center field to give the Indians a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. CF Starling Marte, who had hit a grand slam in the ninth inning of Sunday night’s come-from-behind win in Louisville, would continue the power surge when he hit a two-out solo shot of his own to give the Tribe a 3-0 lead in the second inning.

Durham came back in a big way in the top of the third inning. 2B Cole Figueroa drew a one-out walk and advanced on CF Jesus Feliciano’s single before scoring the first Bulls run of the game on RF Leslie Anderson’s two-out single, cutting the Indianapolis lead to 3-1. After a walk to major league veteran DH Hideki Matsui loaded the bases, 1B Henry Wrigley deposited a bases-clearing double in the right-field corner and the Indians were suddenly looking at a 4-3 deficit.

However, the Tribe pitching staff shutout the Bulls offense the rest of the way and Clement pulled the scored back even with a third-inning solo shot over the left-field wall, his second of the night and fourth of the season. It was the first time an Indianapolis batter hit two homers in a game since INF Brian Friday took the Chiefs deep twice in Syracuse on June 29, 2011. Presley’s fifth-inning game-winning home run marked the first time the Indians hit four or more longballs in a single game since June 27, 2010, when the Indians hit five against the ToledoMud Hens at Victory Field.

In his return to the closer’s role after LHP Doug Slaten was called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP Tim Wood (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R) picked up his third save of the season, tossing one inning of perfect baseball to preserve the win. Indianapolis also got a hold from RHP Duke Welker (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R), his second in just his second Triple-A outing.

Bulls starter Jim Paduch (4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) allowed three of the Tribe’s four home runs and fell to 2-3 on the season. RHP Ryan Reid (1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) struck out three Indians but gave up Presley’s longball and was charged with two of the three fifth-inning runs. Meanwhile, RHP Jhonny NunezĀ  (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB) shut down the Tribe for two innings, but it was too little too late for the Bulls.

Indianapolis (29-21) and Durham (22-30) return to action on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. LHP Rudy Owens (2-2, 2.40) is expected to start for the Indians while the Bulls will likely counter with RHP Chris Archer (3-5, 4.96).

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