Shortstop Chase d’Arnaud singled home second baseman Jordy Mercer in the bottom of the ninth inning, while Tribe starting pitcher Jose Ascanio struck out seven over six scoreless innings and drove home a run with a sacrifice fly to help the Indianapolis Indians get past the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at Victory Field.
With the win, Indianapolis improves to 67-63 on the year, while the loss drops Lehigh Valley’s record to 73-57. The victory for the Indians also improves their season advantage to 4-2 over the IronPigs and draws them to with-in six games of Lehigh valley in the International League Wild Card race.
Though the IronPigs entered the top of the ninth with no runs on just three base knocks, the veteran club would not go away quietly as they collected four base hits and scored two runs to send the game to the bottom of the ninth. In his first at-bat of the game, Mercer lifted a one out single to center, and after a walk to LF Alex Presley moved him to second, the Indians second baseman sped home on d’Arnaud’s game-winning base knock.
Last season’s Indians MVP Brandon Moss helped send the game to the bottom of the ninth, as he began the final frame rally for the IronPigs with a one out base hit to center. Then after base hits by 3B Pete Orr and former Indians’ All-Star catcher Erik Kratz loaded the bases, SS Freddy Galvis came through with a clutch two-out base knock to even the score at 2-2.
The Indians held down the IronPigs for much of the contest thanks to Ascanio (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO), who was called to make a spot start out of the Indianapolis bullpen, and turned in a spectacular performance as he allowed just two singles and a walk, while striking out seven over six scoreless innings. The six innings for Ascanio doubled his previous high on the season, while the seven strikeouts established a new season best and gives him 43 punchouts in 35 innings of work this year.
However, the excellent night for Ascanio was not just limited to his six scoreless frames as he also came through with a key RBI in the fourth inning for just his second career RBI . After C Dusty Brown and 2B Pedro Ciriaco led off the fourth with back-to-back base hits and CF Gorkys Hernandez moved them to second and third with a ground out, Ascanio lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate Brown and extend the Tribe advantage to 2-0.
The Indians jumped out to the 1-0 lead with a single score in the bottom of the third, beginning with d’Arnaud, who reached on a fielder’s choice, before speeding to third on a base hit by RF John Bowker. Tribe All-Star 1B Matt Hague then came through with a clutch two-out base knock to plate d’Arnaud and give Indianapolis the first lead of the game at 1-0.
Following Ascanio, Tribe relievers Daniel Moskos (1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 SO) and Jared Hughes (0.2 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO) combined for two innings of scoreless relief, with Moskos earning his sixth hold and Hughes notching his eighth. Despite giving up the game tying tallies, LHP Justin Thomas (0.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R , 2 ER) still earned his International league leading 11th hold, while despite being pinned with his four blown save RHP Steven Jackson (0.2 IP, 1 H) picked up the win for the Tribe to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Former Indians reliever Juan Perez (0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, SO) suffered the loss for Lehigh Valley to fall to 0-4 on the season after allowing the Tribe’s bottom of the ninth score. IronPigs starter Dave Bush (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER , 1 BB, 1 SO) did not figure in the final decision despite allowing just two runs on five hits over five innings of work.
The Tribe and Iron Pigs hook up back at the Vic on Monday for the third contest in the four game series.
Smoke Signals: Following a weekend in which the Indianapolis Indians drew 34,405 fans over three games at Victory Field, the club’s year-to-date attendance has now surpassed the 500,000 mark. Meanwhile, the Indians year-to-date attendance continues to track ahead of last year’s pace.
Through 63 home dates played this season the Indians have drawn a total of 516,355 fans compared to 503,583 through the same number of dates last season. Earlier this season, the Indians welcomed the nine millionth fan to attend an Indians game at Victory Field since the ballpark opened on July 11, 1996.