Big ninth inning comeback caps off AZL Indians 4-3 win
GOODYEAR – Up and down throughout the entire Cleveland Indians organization on Saturday night, teams exhibited a certain flair for the dramatics, as four teams each won their respective games by one run. In the scorching 106° desert heat, the AZL Indians turned in, possibly, the most entertaining performance of the night, as they rode strong pitching and clutch hitting to a walk-off win over the AZL Dodgers 4-3.
Starting pitcher Juan Santana pitched five strong innings, gave up two runs - both of them earned - three walks, three strikeouts and gave up the only Dodgers hit to the fourth batter of the game. Dodgers first baseman Justin Chigbogu hit his third home run of the young Arizona League season on a deep drive to center field, but then Santana settled into a groove, setting down the last nine Dodgers he faced.
The Tribe bullpen certainly did their job. Naoki Hashimoto came on in relief of Santana in the top of the sixth inning. Hashimoto had a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, but collapsed in the seventh. Francisco Mejia had a ball get by him that allowed Dodgers third baseman Michael Ahmed to advance to third. Three batters later, Hashimoto threw a wild pitch that got Dodgers left fielder Josh Henderson to reach second. Hashimoto then hit the next batter and walked the batter after that.
Tribe skipper Anthony Medrano had seen enough and decided to bring on Kota Kobayashi to try and stop the bleeding. He did just that getting Melvin Santana to ground out to end the inning.
Kobayashi went through some trouble himself in the eighth, throwing another wild pitch and allowing a runner to reach third base before ending the inning with another ground out. Martin Alcantara came on in the ninth and made quick work of the Dodgers 7-8-9 hitters, striking out the last two batters.
The Indians bats took a while to get started as they didn’t have a runner reach third base until the ninth inning, when Joel Mejia scored from second on D’Vone McClure’s single to left field. The Dodgers pitching settled into a groove in the middle innings, setting down nine Indians batters from the third inning to the fifth inning.
The magic came in the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Indians scored all four of their runs. The first two batters of the inning, Joel Mejia and Luis Hernandez, each walked. D’Vone McClure came through when his team needed him the most after having a tough night, striking out swinging in his previous three at-bats. McClure drilled a single to left field to bring around Mejia to score and advance Hernandez to second.
The Dodgers then brought on Jhosue Bermudez to pitch in relief Wascar Teodo. Indians first baseman Grant Fink though a little small ball was in order, as he surprised the Dodgers fielders by getting a bunt single to load the bases. Catcher Francisco Mejia came up next and drilled a Bermudez pitch deep to left field for a game-winning double, as Hernandez, McClure and Fink all came around to score.
The Indians top two hitters, Joel Mejia and Hernandez, made Dodgers pitching work, as they earned five walks between them, three for Mejia and two for Hernandez. Timely, situational hitting was a positive for the Indians, as they went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position while leaving four runners left on base. The Dodgers, meanwhile, had a tough time when they needed clutch hits, going 1-for-6 with RISP and six runners left on base.
If the Indians can continue to have clutch hitting and strong pitching, they will be a tough team to beat in the Arizona Rookie League. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers respond after a crushing defeat like this. These two teams meet again on Sunday at the Dodgers facility with first pitch coming at 7:00 PM MST.