AZL Indians pounded 8-2 by league leading AZL Giants
Clutch AZL Giant hitting and pitching doom Tribe
SCOTTSDALE – The AZL Indians dropped their third straight game Wednesday night, falling to the AZL Giants by a final tally of 8-2. The AZL Giants improved to 14-2 on the season and demonstrated why they have the best record in the Arizona Rookie League, coming through with clutch hitting and strong pitching throughout the game. On the other hand, the AZL Indians struggled to string anything together offensively and their pitching continued to be inconsistent.
The first at-bat of the game summed up the night for the AZL Indians.
Clint Frazier stepped up and smacked the second pitch of the game straight back up the middle for a guaranteed base hit, but AZL Giants starter Keury Mella fortuitously stabbed at and knocked down the laser with his bare hand and recorded the out. This encapsulated the theme of the night that no matter what the AZL Indians seemed to do, the AZL Giants had an answer and were able to make a clutch play to put down the Tribe.
The AZL Giants got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning off of AZL Indians starter Kieran Lovegrove. With one out and runners on first and second, Lovegrove managed to get Jonathan Jones to ground into a fairly routine double play to shortstop Ivan Castillo. However, Castillo’s throw to second base was a little wide, which forced second baseman Ordomar Valdez to bobble the transition and keep the inning alive. The AZL Giants capitalized on the mistake, as they pushed across one run on a Lovegrove wild pitch and a second run on a Craig Massoni.
Lovegrove gave up two more runs in the bottom of the second inning. AZL Giants shortstop Christian Arroyo hit a two out, RBI triple to deep right field and later came around on another Lovegrove wild pitch.
The Tribe starter and Indians 2012 third round pick had flashes of dominance, but a lot of control issues, as he really began laboring to find the strike zone as the game wore on. He ended up being lifted with two outs in the fifth inning and a runner at third in favor of Jose Zapata. Unfortunately for the AZL Indians, the AZL Giants took the change in stride and Hector Mercedes immediately launched a two run homer well beyond the left field fence for two more runs.
Lovegrove finished the day letting in five runs (all earned) on five hits with three strikeouts against four walks in 4.2 innings.
The AZL Indians managed to scratch across one run in the top of the third on a two out, RBI single by Frazier, which scored Valdez who had doubled previously in the inning. The Tribe seemed poised to break through for a big two out rally after another single by Castillo, but were turned away when Frazier was thrown out on a questionable call by the umpire trying to swipe third.
Other than this minor rally, the AZL Giants’ Mella baffled Tribe hitters allowing only one run on four hits in five innings with five strikeouts and one walk.
The best chance for the AZL Indians to get back in the game came in the top of the sixth inning. Trailing 6-1, the first three batters reached base against AZL Giants reliever Jacob McCasland. Francisco Mejia then grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Castillo from third and setting the AZL Indians up with runners at first and third with only one out. MacCasland buckled down, however, and forced the next batter, Grant Fink, to ground meekly into an inning ending double play.
The AZL Giants responded by putting the game out of reach in the bottom of the inning by scoring two more runs, again with two outs, on a Ryder Jones double and a Ryan Cavan single. In fact, all eight AZL Giants runs were scored with two outs on the board, illustrating their ability to come through with timely hits.
This pushed the AZL Giant lead to 8-2, which proved to be too much for the AZL Indians to overcome, especially against a strong bullpen performance by the AZL Giants. Four AZL Giant relievers combined to control Tribe hitters and allow only three hits in four innings. Sidearmer Tyler Rogers capped of the impressive showing striking out two in a scoreless ninth inning.
Castillo and Valdez were the only two AZL Indians to record multiple hits and they combined to score the Tribe’s only two runs on the evening, as the went 2-4 with one run scored and 2-3 with a double and one run scored, respectively.
Despite the poor showing, this was a good experience for the Tribe to play against the best team in the league. It is often said that you can only improve by playing teams that are better than you and the AZL Indians should now have a better understanding of the type of play they should be striving to achieve.
The AZL Indians will look to rebound at home against these same AZL Giants Thursday night at 7 p.m.