AZL Indians blow late lead, still manage 7-5 win in extras
Early pitching duel turns into offensive battle late
SCOTTSDALE – Before the calendar flipped to July, the AZL Indians found ways to get locked into some wild contests. Their erratic play continued Tuesday night, as they again went into extra innings against the AZL Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields.
The game began with far less drama than the AZL Indians had shown so far this year. Both AZL Indians’ starter,Anthony Vizcaya and AZL Dbacks starter Anfernee Benitez were in control in the early going and they seemed poised for a low scoring pitchers’ duel.
The first opportunity for any scoring came in the top of the third inning when, with two outs in the inning, first round pick Clint Frazier smacked a double into the right center field gap. Ordomar Valdez then stepped to the plate and stroked a single into right field; however, Frazier was tagged out at home on a fantastic throw by AZL Dbacks right fielder Matt Vinson.
Instead, the AZL Dbacks got on the board first in their half of the fourth. After a double by Phildrick Llewellyn, Vizcaya made a great pitch to AZL Dback center fielder Dane McFarland shattering his bat and sending a soft blooper toward second base. However, as is the case in the game of baseball, placement sometimes trumps great contact. The soft Texas Leaguer ended up falling between the mound and second base, making for a tough play for Tribe second baseman Takya Tsuchida. Falling away from first base, Tsuchida’s throw sailed wide of first base, which allowed Llewellyn to score on the play.
This unearned run turned out to be the only blemish on Vizcaya’s solid outing. He finished the evening allowing only five hits, one unearned run, three strikeouts and 2 walks in five strong innings.
The AZL Indians responded immediately with a run of their own in the top of the fifth. Tsuchida, making up for his bad play in the field, drew a one out walk and promptly stole second base to get things going. Frazier then lined a hard single to center field, scoring Tsuchida easily. Another single by Valdez and a walk D’vone McClure loaded the bases for the AZL Tribe, but the AZL Dbacks’ Benitez was able to avoid the big inning by getting Rowland to ground into an inning ending double play.
The AZL Indians managed to load the bases again in the top of the sixth against AZL Dbacks’ reliever Tom Jameson, but they failed to push across any runs. After failing to crack the game open yet again, it felt as though the runners left on base through the first six innings would surely come back to haunt the AZL Indians (they would go on to leave 14 on base for the game).
The missed early opportunities were all but forgotten, however, in the top of the eighth inning when AZL Indians’ right fielder, Felix Lora, blasted a no doubt solo home run to left field to finally break the 1-1 tie. The AZL Indians scratched out another run in the top of the ninth on an RBI double by Gerald Bautista, which scored Valdez, who had walked earlier in the inning. This gave the Tribe a comfortable 3-1 lead heading into the home half of the ninth.
AZL Indians’ closer Martin Alcantara then entered the game and made quick work of the first two batters he faced. However, two hours and fifteen minutes into the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a seemingly insurmountable two run lead, Alcantara inexplicably lost all control of the strike zone and walked three consecutive batters to set the AZL Dbacks up with the bases loaded and a chance to tie the game. Justin Williams was able to do just that, as he poked a sharp single into left field easily scoring two runs and sending the game into extra frames.
After a quick tenth inning, the AZL Indians put together a rally in the top of the eleventh to again pull ahead. Grant Fink led the inning off with a walk and was followed by three consecutive singles by Joel Mejia, Valdez, and McClure, which gave the AZL Indians another two run advantage.
However, the Tribe again failed to close the door on the AZL D’backs. With one out, runners at first and third, and one run already across the plate, AZL Indians’ reliever Thomas Pannone forced Justin Williams to roll over into a tailor made double play ball to shortstop, Ivan Castillo, who proceeded to boot the ball into center field allowing the tying run to score. After another collapse, Jeffry Cleto was brought in and managed to shut to the door on the AZL Dbacks, leaving the game tied.
If anything, the AZL Indians showed resilience, despite their inability to close out the victory, as they pushed across two more runs in the top of the twelfth on a double by Castillo followed by a triple and a single by Mejia and Valdez, respectively. Unlike his predecessors, Cleto shut down the AZL Dbacks in the bottom of the inning to clinch the victory.
After what felt like a low scoring pitcher’s duel for most of the game, the AZL Indians managed to total 19 hits on the evening led by Valdez’s monster five-for-six game. He also finished with a double, two RBIs, and one run scored. Frazier, Mejia, Bautista, and Lora were the other Indians to collect multiple hits on the day. Additionally, despite the late game failures, the Tribe bullpen pitched fairly well, only giving up four runs (three earned) on three hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts against four walks.
The AZL Indians will try to build off of this win Wednesday in a tilt against the AZL Royals at home in Goodyear.