TOLEDO, Ohio -- The Indianapolis Indians (8-4) plated three runs in the eighth inning on a two-run Toledo error and RBI base hit from right fielder Jerry Sands to battle back and beat the Toledo Mud Hens (3-9) 5-4 for their third straight victory on Monday night at Fifth Third Field.
Just one day after trailing 5-2 heading into the 7th inning against Columbus, the Indians found themselves in familiar territory down 4-2 moving into the eighth frame on Monday. However, just like Sunday when the Indians rallied for nine runs in the seventh inning on their way to a 12-7 victory, the Tribe again rallied with three runs in the eighth on their way to earning a 5-4 win on Monday.
SS Jordy Mercer led off the eighth inning rally with a base hit to center, before moving up to second when the defending International League batter of the week, Brett Carroll, roped a base hit of his own one batter later. CF Felix Pie then followed Carroll's base knock with a base-on-balls to load the bases and force a pitching change by the Mud Hens.
Into the game came the hard-throwing Bruce Rondon, whose fastball sits in the high 90s, and who entering the contest had given up just one hit over four scoreless innings of relief on the season. 1B Matt Hague stepped in to face Rondon and rolled a ball to usually sure handed 3B Argenis Diaz, who made a key misplay that allowed both Mercer and Carroll to speed home and tie the score at 4-4.
RF Jerry Sands, who after a slow start had collected hits in six of his last seven contests, then came to the plate and came through in the clutch, lining a single to center to plate Pie for what proved to be the game-winning score. The base knock for Sands was also his second base hit of the contest to give him his first multi-hit performance in an Indianapolis uniform.
The Indians' eighth frame rally was made possible thanks to the continued dominating work by the Tribe bullpen as relievers Duke Welker (2.2 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) and RHP Vic Black (1.0 IP, 2 SO) combined for 3.2 scoreless innings of relief. Welker surrendered just a single hit on his way to earning his second victory of the season, while Black pitched a perfect ninth to notch his second save. Overall, this season the Indianapolis bullpen has posted a stellar 1.78 ERA (10 ER in 50.2 IP) with 52 strikeouts and only 13 walks over 50.2 innings pitched.
Indianapolis was able to jump out to an early advantage with a single score in the first inning sparked by the recently returned 2B Josh Harrison, who led off the game with a single to left. Mercer then moved up Harrison with a groundout before the former beloved Toledo Mud Hen Brandon Inge stepped in and ripped a double to left to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead.
Harrison was not finished, however, as the multidimensional infielder also drove in the Tribe's second run on a fielder's choice in the top of the fifth on his way to finishing the night with a game-high three hits. C Tony Sanchez scored on Harrison's fifth frame fielder's choice after leading off the inning with a double to center, moving to third on a groundout and using a nifty slide on Harrison's hit to beat the tag at the plate.
Despite Harrison's heroics, the Indians found themselves down 4-2 thanks to a three-run third and single score sixth by Toledo. RF Ben Guez played a part in all four of the Mud Hens scores, first coming through with a bases loaded double that plated Diaz, 2B Kevin Russo and DH Jordan Lennerton in the third, before singling to lead-off the sixth and later scoring on a base hit by C Bryan Holaday.
Indianapolis, however, mounted the comeback off the Toledo bullpen, pinning the loss on reliever Evan Reed (0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO), who was charged with all three of the Tribe's late frame scores.
In his Triple-A debut Indians' starter Brandon Cumpton (5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO) allowed four runs on six hits and three walks over 5.1 innings and did not figure in the final decision. Toledo starter Pat Misch (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) also did not figure in the final decision, after allowing two scores on five hits over 5.2 frames of work.
Indianapolis and Toledo will now continue their three-game set with a 6:30 p.m. contest on Tuesday night. RHP Gerrit Cole is expected to take the mound for the Indians, while the Mud Hens are scheduled to counter with LHP Casey Crosby.
The game will be carried on WNDE 1260 AM, WNDE.com and via iheartradio, a mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones with Howard Kellman and Will Flemming on the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:10 p.m.
Post-game quotes -- RF Jerry Sands
(on the comeback win)
"Resiliency has been something these first few weeks that we have obviously grown accustomed to, because we have kind of put ourselves in the hole a little bit. But I think we have a good enough team and good enough bullpen that when we finally do strike, we can put it away from there."
(on feeling more comfortable as of late at the plate)
"I have just been working. Trying to adjust to a different club, being with these guys and what they expect and how they do things around here. And adjust to a new league, I was in the PCL the last couple years, so just seeing some arms and what they like to do over here. And obviously just figuring myself out. I have gotten alot more comfortable these last few games and hopefully just keep carrying it over."
(on the dominating Indianapolis bullpen)
"Our starters have been throwing the ball well too, but our bullpen comes in there and does a great job. Hopefully, they will keep doing it."