Liriano K’s 9 in Tribe’s 9-2 win over Braves

Starter Francisco Liriano fanned nine batters in his second straight quality start and SS Josh Harrison knocked three doubles as the Indianapolis Indians (20-7) erupted for a 9-2 blowout win and series sweep of the Gwinnett Braves (12-15) on Tuesday afternoon at Victory Field. With the victory, the Tribe posted an incredible 9-1 record over its monstrous 10-game homestand, and has now won a season-high six contests in a row.

In his second rehab start with the Indians, Liriano (W, 6.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 9 SO) picked up right where he left off from his first outing, working 6.0 innings of one-run ball. The southpaw allowed just four hits and no walks while striking out nine to pick up the victory.

Overall in his two rehab outings, Liriano posted phenomenal numbers which included a combined two total earned runs, a 1.64 ERA, no walks and 17 strikeouts in 11.0 innings of action. The left-hander’s 17 strikeouts paced all of Minor League Baseball during the time span of his two starts, and was four more punchouts than his closest competitor, Nick Kingham (13), of the Pirates High-A affiliate Bradenton.

With a dominant performance on the mound, Indianapolis was free to launch its afternoon assault right out of the gate, beginning with LF Darren Ford drawing a leadoff walk and quickly moving to third. Ford, who became caught in a rundown between first and second on a pickoff attempt, was able to take second and advance all the way to third as 2B Corey Wimberly sent a wild throw rolling into the outfield. CF Alex Presley then picked up the runner with an RBI groundout to second to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.

The Tribe again pushed a run across the plate in the next frame as C Brian Jeroloman drew a one-out walk, took second on a fielder’s choice from Liriano, advanced to third when LHP Daniel Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch and finally scored on a push-bunt RBI single from Ford.

Up 2-0 in the bottom of the third, the Tribe blew the gates wide open with a five-run uprising that put the contest out of reach. SS Josh Harrison sparked the onslaught with a leadoff double to left, and as 1B Matt Hague coaxed a walk to move the runner up a bag, Harrison swiped third for his eighth steal over the last nine games.

RF Brett Carroll followed with a sharply hit bouncer down the left-field line that brought in Harrison and put Indianapolis up 3-0. The single tally marked just the beginning of the Tribe’s rally, as Jeroloman drew a free pass to load the bases and set the stage for 2B Ivan DeJesus Jr, who answered the call with a bases-clearing, three-run triple that extended the advantage 6-0.

Things took a turn for the weird from there, as Liriano smashed a line drive right at 1B Ernesto Mejia that was corralled by the infielder. Although the first base umpire ruled the ball to have touched the ground, none of the players on the diamond heard the call, and stood around in confusion with DeJesus near home plate and Liriano half way down the first-base line.

After several seconds of befuddlement, Indianapolis’ players reacted first with DeJesus racing home to make the score 6-0, and Liriano sneaking to first base when Mejia whipped a throw to the plate. As the Tribe starter neared the bag, C Jose Yepez lobbed a lazy throw to try to force Liriano out, but his toss bounced out of Mejia’s reach, allowing the runner to reach safely.

With a safe lead under their belts, the Indians decided to tack on two more scores for good measure, as Presley lifted a solo shot to center in the fourth, and 3B Jared Goedert drove in Harrison, who had reached on a leadoff double in the eighth. Harrison’s two bagger was his third of the contest, marking the first time an Indianapolis batter knocked three doubles in one game since Alex Presley on Aug. 19, 2011 vs. Louisville.

The Braves plated their only runs of the contest on a sac fly from SS Sean Kazmar in the fifth, and an RBI groundout from 3B Joe Leonard in the ninth. The two scores came up well short in support of Gwinnett starter Daniel Rodriguez (L, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 6 BB, 3 SO), who allowed seven runs (six earned) on four hits and six walks through just 3.0 innings of work in the loss.

Over the four-game sweep, Tribe hurlers combined to allow just seven runs on 22 hits while walking only 11 and fanning an impressive 45 batters. The pitching staff also limited Ernesto Mejia, who entered the series with the most home runs in the International League, to just two hits (.182 average), no home runs and a league-high tying six strikeouts during the four-game set.

Offensively, Indianapolis plated 21 total runs, including three or more in each contest, swiped six total bags and knocked nine extra-base hits. With this afternoon’s win, the team also improved to a perfect 10-0 against left-handed starters.

The Indians receive a much-deserved day of rest tomorrow before hitting the road for an eight-game swing which begins with four contests against Lehigh Valley at Coca-Cola Park. Indianapolis’ starter for Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. game is still to be announced, while the IronPigs are scheduled to throw RHP B.J. Rosenberg (0-2, 4.79 ERA).

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