Tribes win over Gwinnett gives Indians best start in 54 years

Left-handed starter Andy Oliver allowed just one earned run in 6.0 innings and third baseman Jared Goedert knocked a game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the eighth as the Indianapolis Indians (19-7) held on for a 3-2 win over the Gwinnett Braves (12-14) on Monday night at Victory Field. The Tribe’s 19-7 record is the franchise’s best start in 54 years, approaching the 1959 Indians squad which began the campaign at 22-7.

After both team’s starter’s delivered lockdown efforts, the contest remained knotted at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Following a groundout from 1B Matt Hague, LF Felix Pie put the Tribe in business as he poked a single up the middle and quickly advanced to second on a wild pitch from RHP Omar Poveda. 3B Jared Goedert then coaxed a walk to put two runners on, but the scoring opportunity seemed out of reach after Poveda recorded his sixth strikeout of the night for the inning’s second out.

C Tony Sanchez kept the Indians’ rally alive with a walk that loaded the bases, leaving the bat in the hands of his fellow backstop, pinch-hitter Brian Jeroloman. After several close calls, Jeroloman was able to work a full count, and as Poveda unleashed his seventh pitch of the at-bat, the Tribe pinch-hitter watched the offering sail by to collect an RBI walk and put Indianapolis up 2-1.

Holding a one-run lead, the Indians turned to their stellar bullpen to close out the win. RHP Duke Welker (W, 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 SO) continued his fantastic season by striking out two in a perfect seventh, extending his scoreless campaign to 13.0 straight innings in which he has also allowed just two total hits.

Indianapolis then tacked on what proved to be an ever-important insurance run in the bottom of the eighth beginning with a one-out single from SS Jordy Mercer, who extended his season-high seven-game hitting streak with the base knock. 1B Matt Hague followed with a walk, but a strikeout from Pie put two outs on the board. The pressure didn’t seem to affect 3B Jared Goedert, as the third baseman ripped a double to left for the Tribe’s 35th two-out RBI of the season, scoring Mercer and putting the Indians up 3-1.

The Braves made it interesting in the top of the ninth with back-to-back knocks from the International League hit leader RF Joey Terdoslavich and the league home run leader 1B Ernesto Mejia. RHP Vic Black regained control to strikeout LF Jordan Parraz, but surrendered an RBI double to the next batter 3B Joe Leonard to allow Gwinnett to move within one at 3-2.

With the tying run just 90 feet away and only one out, Black (2.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 SO) buckled down and induced a groundout from C Matt Pagnozzi before ending the Braves’ comeback by striking out SS Sean Kazmar to preserve the 3-2 Indians win.

The closely contested contest remained deadlocked throughout most of the evening largely thanks to starter Andy Oliver’s gem. The southpaw allowed just one earned run on four hits over 6.0 frames in which he walked only two, while also recording seven strikeouts to improve his league-leading punchout count to 39.

Oliver (6.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 7 SO) allowed several runners to reach scoring position, but kept his composure to repeatedly work out of jams. After escaping two runners in the opening frame, he fell victim to what appeared to be a sure leadoff double from Leonard. However, CF Alex Presley had other ideas, and made a full-extension diving catch to rob Leonard of an extra-base hit. Oliver showed his appreciation by striking out the next two batters to preserve the 0-0 tie.

The Tribe starter then collected two quick outs in the third, but allowed the next batter of the inning, CF Todd Cunningham, to lift a double to left field and keep the inning alive. With a runner on second, Terdoslavich produced an RBI single that gave Gwinnett an early 1-0 lead.

Gwinnett’s advantage proved to be short lived as the Tribe pushed across a single tally in the bottom of the frame to re-tie the game. RF Jerry Sands coaxed a leadoff walk and moved all the way to third on a double from C Tony Sanchez. As Sands stood on third, an unlikely hero stepped to the plate in starter Oliver, who answered the call with a sac fly to right that evened the score at 1-1. The RBI was the left-handed pitcher’s second of the season after he previously plated a run on April 19 at Louisiville.

From there, it was a pitchers duel as both Oliver and Braves RHP Omar Poveda (7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO) posted zeros on the board through the next three frames. Poveda was nearly as impressive as Indianapolis’ hurler, allowing just two earned runs on three hits through 7.0 innings of work. The right-handers eventual downfall were his five free passes during the losing effort, including three in the Indians go-ahead seventh inning.

The Indians will go for a series sweep of the Braves tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. at Victory Field. Indianapolis is scheduled to give the ball to rehabbing starter LHP Francisco Liriano (1-0, 1.80), while Gwinnett is expected to pitch LHP Daniel Rodriguez (1-1, 5.79).

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