AZL Indians struggle late, fall 8-7 to AZL Angels
16 hits not enough for the Tribe
TEMPE – After rattling off a seven game win streak early in the month, the AZL Indians dropped their third straight game Sunday, falling to the AZL Angels 8-7. The Tribe offense did manage to pound out 16 hits on the night, but nine men left on base coupled with the bullpen allowing the AZL Angels to score in each of the last four innings ultimately doomed the AZL Indians.
Juan Santana got the start for the AZL Indians and responded with a solid outing. He gave the Tribe some quality innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits with four strikeouts and one walk in five innings of work. The only run against Santana reached base on a throwing error by third baseman Grant Fink in the bottom of the second inning and then came around to score on a double by AZL Angel Taylor Johnson.
This was the only major blip against Santana, but he did have to work out of several jams and was lucky to get out of the fifth inning unscathed, as an AZL Angel was doubled off of third base after a line drive to short to end the inning. However, Santana showed grit and competitiveness, as he usually does, by getting through these tight spots without imploding and keeping the Tribe in the game.
On the other side, AZL Angels’ starter Clint Sharp held the Tribe at bay for most of the night. Through the first five innings, the AZL Indians were unable to push across any runs despite collecting five hits and six base runners total.
The Tribe were finally able to get to Sharp in the sixth, however. First baseman David Cooper got the rally started with a one out single to right field. Juan De La Cruz followed by drawing a walk. Then, one batter latter, Francisco Mejia came through with a two out single to right field, scoring Cooper to tie the game at one and chase Sharp from the game.
Kenny Hatcher came on in relief of Sharp, but was unable to keep the AZL Indians from putting up a crooked number. Victor DeJesus, the first batter Hatcher faced, sent a double down the left field line to score De La Cruz. A wild pitch and a single by Ordomar Valdez would plate two more runs in the inning, giving the Tribe a 4-1 lead.
This, however, would be when the AZL Indian bullpen would begin to fall apart. Kyle Bellows replaced Santana to begin the bottom of the sixth and retired the first two batters he faced with relative ease. From there, Bellows would seemingly unravel and allowed four consecutive hits, including a double, all to right field, leading to two AZL Angel runs. After Bellows issued a walk to load the bases, reliever Casey Shane was called upon to get out of the inning, which he managed to do by striking out Erick Salcedo.
The AZL Indians would respond with two runs of their own in the top of the seventh as they knocked out five hits capped off by an RBI single by Grant Fink. This stretched the Tribe lead to 6-3.
After scoring another run in the bottom of the seventh, the AZL Angels exploded for three more runs in the eighth. With one out, Shane gave up a walk to Brad Guenther followed by a single to Salcedo. Shane was able to record the second out of the inning, but then issued another walk to load the bases. This would end Shane’s night, as the Tribe brought on Ramon Rodriguez to try to preserve the lead. Rodriguez, however, proved to be no more effective. After walking the first batter he faced to allow one run to score, Rodriguez gave up a two run single to Ismael Dionicio, giving the AZL Angels a 7-6 advantage going into the ninth.
Even though they blew another late lead, the AZL Indians would not go quietly. With one out in the inning, center fielder Clint Frazier, who had squared up several balls that were caught earlier on the night, smacked a fastball over the left field wall to tie up the game. The homer was Frazier’s fourth on the year and could not have come in a better spot.
Despite the offense getting the Tribe back in the game, the bullpen would again falter. With Rodriguez still in the game, Chase Patterson led off the inning with a single to left field. Quinten Davis was then able to reach on an error by Valdez, who bobbled a tailor made double play ball. A successful sacrifice bunt then set up the AZL Angels with runners at second and third and just one out. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, the AZL Angels would end up getting the victory on a walk off fielder’s choice when the Tribe would come up just short trying to turn a double play up the middle to get out of the inning.
The offense was certainly the highlight of the night for the AZL Indians, as every Indian starter had at least one hit. The Tribe pounded out 16 hits in total, led by Cooper, who went 4-5 with a double and two runs scored, and Valdez, who went 3-4 with a double and an RBI. Despite the high hit total, the AZL Indians did only manage to score seven runs and came up short in some key situations to put the game out of reach, leaving nine runners on base.
The bullpen was again the Achilles’ heel for the Tribe. The three relievers combined to give up six runs (all earned) on nine hits in just 3.2 innings with four strikeouts and six walks. It was another ugly stat line for the pen, as Tribe relievers continue to struggle commanding the zone consistently.
The AZL Indians, who fell to .500 at 24-24 on the season, are off Monday, but will try to end their three game skid on Tuesday when they take on the AZL Dodgers in Glendale at 7 p.m.