Indianapolis Indians 9, Toledo Mud Hens 1[ box ]
With six games left to play in the 2011 season, the Indians had a pitcher throw a complete game for the first time all year. Nelson Figueroa needed 123 pitches (92 strikes) to get through 9 innings, allowing just one run on 8 hits, striking out 10 Mud Hens’ batters at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio tonight. 3B Pedro Alvarez gave Figueroa plenty of insurance with a grand slam in the Indians’ 5-run 8th inning. SS Pedro Ciriaco and 2B Jordy Mercer contributed 3 hits and 3 runs each in the game, and LF John Bowker singled twice and drove in 3 runs.
The Indians jumped right out to a 1-o lead with a run in the top of the 1st. Pedro Ciriaco led off with a looping fly ball into left field for a single. He moved to second base on Mercer’s ground out to third, then scored when 1B Matt Hague smacked an RBI double into right field.
Two more runners reached base in the 2nd inning, but didn’t score. DH Andy Marte doubled, and C Jason Jaramillo was hit by a pitch to give the Tribe two runners on with no outs. They were left on base, though, when a strikeout, a short fly out, and a pop out ended the inning. Mercer boosted the Indians’ lead to 2-0 with a lead-off homer in the 3rd inning.
Nelson Figueroa was making just his second start for the Indians. After retiring the Mud Hens in order in the bottom of the 1st, Figueroa caught a lucky break in the 2nd. With two outs, RF Ben Guez lined a double into center field. Former Indy Indian CF Jeff Salazar lined a single over the leaping Mercer’s head and into right center field. Guez apparently forgot that there were already two outs. He should have been off and running with the swing of the bat, which would have given him the chance to score on the play. But instead, he held back on second until the ball dropped in, then was only able to reach third base. With runners on the corners, Figueroa got Toledo SS Audy Ciriaco to ground out to his brother, Tribe SS Pedro Ciriaco, to end the inning, and Guez had missed his chance.
Figueroa surrendered one run in the 3rd inning — the only one he would allow in the game. With one out, LF Andy Dirks grounded to the right side of the infield, where 2B Mercer was able to make a great stop on the grass, keeping the ball from going into the outfield. But Mercer’s throw to first base pulled Hague off the bag, and Dirks was safe, credited with an infield hit. After a strikeout, Dirks stole second base, as the throw from C Jaramillo sailed into right-center field. DH Timo Perez lined a single back through the infield and into center field, driving Dirks in from second base.
Toledo starter Fu-Te Ni got himself together after Mercer’s homer in the 3rd. He retired the next three batters in order in that inning, then went on to retire the Indians in order for the next four innings. He exited after the 7th, having retired the last 15 batters he faced, including 8 strikeouts.
Figueroa kept up with Ni, retiring the Mud Hens in order in the 4th and 5th. He allowed a double down the right field line and into the corner to rehabbing 2B Carlos Guillen in the 6th and a single to Salazar in the 7th. Both of them were left on base.
Ni gave way to reliever Brayan Villarreal to begin the 8th inning, and the Indians liked that change in pitching. Pedro Ciriaco, Mercer, and LF John Bowker hit three consecutive singles, with Bowker picking up an RBI as the speedy Ciriaco slid in just ahead of a strong throw in from right field to score. Bowker advanced to second base on the throw and its aftermath, as Toledo C Santos was slow to redirect his attention after Ciriaco’s slide. Hague (or his uniform pant leg) was hit by a pitch. That loaded the bases for 3B Pedro Alvarez, who had been struck out three times by Ni. Alvarez also like Villarreal much better than Ni — he blasted a grand slam over the right center field wall, nearly hitting the video board. The Indians had a 5-run inning, and lead 7-1.
Figueroa tucked those extra 5 runs into his pocket and went out to pitch the bottom of the 8th. He worked around a double by 3B Danny Worth, to keep the Hens scoreless again.
With two outs in the top of the 9th, the Indians added to their lead. Ciriaco and Mercer both singled again, with Mercer beating out the throw from 1B Scott Thorman to Villarreal for an infield single. A wild pitch put both runners into scoring position, making it easy for them to score on Bowker’s liner into center field — again those three batters had three consecutive singles. Indians 9, Mud Hens 1.
Figueroa did not have an easy bottom of the 9th. Thorman led off with a single through the right side of the infield. Figueroa got two fly outs, but a ground out that should have ended the game did not. Audy Ciriaco grounded right to his brother Pedro, who let the ball skip off his glove and into left field for an error, putting two runners on base. Santos grounded to first, where Hague bobbled the ball — then managed to pick it up and fire to Figueroa covering first in time for the final out.
The win gives the Indians a 10-9 lead in the season series with the Mud Hens. The Tribe has picked up another game on the Louisville Bats in the International League West standings. The Indians are in second place, 13 games behind the Columbus Clippers, and the Bats are in third place, 15 games behind. The Indians remain in 3rd place in the Wild Card standings, 4.5 games behind Lehigh Valley and 3.5 games behind Gwinnett. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is one game behind the Indians, and the Bats are one game further back.
The Indians return to Victory Field tomorrow night (Tuesday) for another two games against the Mud Hens. They have a scheduled off day on Thursday, then wrap up the home portion of the season with two games against the Louisville Bats on Friday and Saturday.
On Tuesday night, the first pitch will be thrown out by a robot, built by the Robotics’ Team from Perry Meridian High School. Got to check that out!
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: A grand slam! by Pedro Alvarez, and a solo homer by Jordy Mercer, who also singled twice.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: A complete game by Nelson Figueroa, allowing just one run, for his first win with the Indians. In a post-game interview, Figueroa talked about his tough season: “I had a hard year this year. This puts it all in perspective…. I wanted to go out there and do my part. My advantage was to get ahead early, and then mix it up … and make them hit my pitches.” Figueroa has a big repertoire of pitches, and he told C Jason Jaramillo, who he has never worked with before today, to just call for whatever pitch he wanted, and that’s what he (Figueroa) would throw. Clearly that worked well for them. He wasn’t too worried when Scott Thorman singled in the bottom of the 9th, but “didn’t want it to escalate into anything”, so he bore down and got to work.
(photos by Nancy)