AZL Indians drop opener 9-4 to AZL Reds
Strong starting pitching too much for AZL Indians to overcome
GOODYEAR – Over two months into the major league baseball season, the AZL Indians, the Cleveland Indians rookie league affiliate, kicked off their Arizona League season Thursday against their complex rival, the AZL Reds. Early season jitters and rust were apparent for the Indians throughout the game, starting in the top of the first inning, as the team ultimately lost 9-4.
The Indians gave the opening day start to pitcher Mitch Brown, who responded with early struggles. On the second pitch of the game, Brown gave up a double to the Reds’ leadoff hitter, Cory Thompson, who came around to score two batters later, advancing on consecutive groundouts to give the Reds an early lead. They were able to extend their lead in the second, when left fielder Kevin Garcia hit a three-run blast to left field, scoring his teammates Jose Fernandez and Shedric Long, who had singled and walked, respectively, earlier in the inning. The Reds touched up Brown for one more run in the inning on an RBI double by Alberti Chavez.
To his credit, Brown was able to recover from his poor start and sat down five of the next six batters he faced, which included a pickoff of the only batter to reach. The damage was done, however, and Brown was lifted after only 3.2 innings with an elevated pitch count as a result of the jams he had to work through early on. He finished allowing five runs on six hits, two strikeouts and one walk.
On the other side, Reds pitcher Jeremy Kivel dominated in the early going. It took until the third inning for the Indians to bust through with a hit as they were consistently struggling to catch up to Kivel’s fastball, which sat in the upper 90s and topped out at 99 miles per hour. The Indians finally scratched across a run in the fourth on a leadoff double by D'vone McClure, who was able to advance to third on a fly ball by Francisco Mejia. McClure eventually came around to score on a Kivel wild pitch.
The Indians were able to get to Kivel again in the bottom of the fifth as Mike Giuffre and Yonathan Mendoza both reached base to start off the inning. Kivel showed some grit and struck the next two batters, but an awkward play by his shortstop, who fell and lost control of the ball after a collision and a failed attempt to record a force at second on a ground ball led to another Indians run, albeit unearned. This cut the lead to 5-2, but unfortunately, that was the closest the Indians would get.
Indians’ reliever Anthony Vizcaya pitched very effectively for 2.1 innings before running into trouble in the top of the seventh. With one out, Vizcaya drilled Reds’ shortstop Cory Thompson and subsequently gave up a homer to Aristides Aquino to left field. The Reds struck again for two more runs in the eighth, this time victimizing Indians reliever Jeffry Cleto on an RBI double by McClure, who later came around to score on a single by Kevin Garcia.
Down seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians did manage to put together a bit of a rally on singles by Mejia, Victor Cabral, and Giuffre and a sacrifice fly by Ivan Castillo. The large deficit and the Reds’ Martinez proved to be too tough, however, and the Indians ultimately fell by a score of 9-4. Martinez finished the game with 4.1 innings pitched allowing just two runs on four hits, four strikeouts, and no walks. Only Indians shortstop Ivan Castillo managed to collect multiple hits against the Reds' strong pitching performance.
Despite the loss, the Indians look to have a promising campaign. They have an early chance at redemption on Friday, as they again take on the Reds at 7:00 p.m. in Goodyear.
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