Mejia's lead AZL Indians past AZL Royals, 4-3
Brothers combine to score three of four Tribe runs
GOODYEAR – In what is becoming an uncomfortable theme thus far on the season, the AZL Indians blew another lead in the late innings, but managed to come back and top the AZL Royals by a count of 4-3 Wednesday night at the Indians’ facility in Goodyear. The victory was largely due to the success of Joel and Francisco Mejia, who combined for three of the AZL Indians’ seven hits and three of their four runs on the night.
After AZL Indians’ starter Mitch Brown struck out the side to begin the game, Joel Mejia led off the bottom of the first inning with a sharp single to left field. Shortstop Ivan Castillo followed with a single to left of his own. This brought center fielder Clint Frazier to the plate, who was hitting in the three hole instead of his usual lead off spot.
During the at-bat, AZL Royal starter Igor Feliz bounced a pitch that got away from his catcher and allowed both Castillo and Mejia to advance to second and third, respectively. Frazier then took a high fastball and lifted it to fairly deep center field, which allowed Mejia to tag up and score on the putout and gave the AZL Indians the early 1-0 lead.
In the second consecutive solid showing for a Tribe starter, Brown was in control for the first four innings. He was able to strike out six AZL Royals and scattered three hits over the first few innings, while preventing the AZL Royals to advance past second base.
Brown ran into trouble, however, in the top of the fifth inning when he walked the first two batters in the inning. AZL Indians’ catcher, and latter Mejia brother, Francisco Mejia managed to gun down the first of these runners on a stolen base attempt, but Brown was lifted from the game after the second walk and elevating pitch count.
Kota Kobayashi came on in relief and struggled to get into a rhythm early on. He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and then gave up a line drive double down the right field line to AZL Royals’ center fielder Amalani Fukofuka, scoring the first AZL Royal run. Kobayashi did settle down after that and induced the next hitter to ground into a double play. However, this plated the second run of the inning staking the AZL Royals to a 2-1 lead. The inning ended with no further damage done.
The AZL Indians then grabbed their bats and responded in the bottom of the inning with a lead off double by D’vone McClure, followed by a towering home run that literally hit off of the top of the wall and bounced over the deep right center field fence by Francisco Mejia. This pushed the AZL Tribe back in front by a score of 3-2.
It seemed as though this lead would hold up until the end of the game, but the AZL Royals kept battling and scratched out a run in the top of the eighth inning.
Entering his second inning of work, AZL Indians’ reliever Ramon Rodriguez allowed consecutive singles to right field to lead off the inning. Instead of blowing up and giving up the dreaded big inning, Rodriguez stayed focused and got Jorge Bonifacio to roll over and ground into a double play. This did score Alfredo Patino from third to tie the game, but the blown lead did not seem to deflate the AZL Indians as much as it has in the past few days. Rodriguez retired the next batter to end the inning and the AZL Indians immediately got back to work offensively.
Ordomar Valdez began the bottom of the eighth with a softly hit ground ball to the shortstop, but Valdez’s great speed in combination with the slow rolling grounder led to an infield hit, as the AZL Royals’ shortstop did not even attempt a throw to first base. Joel Mejia then stepped up to attempt to bunt Valdez to second base. However, Mejia’s effort was a poor one, as he bunted the first pitch he saw hard right back at the pitcher. AZL Royals pitcherHunter Haynes fielded the ball and, in a stroke of luck for Mejia and the Tribe, threw the ball high into center field in an effort to force out the lead runner.
This set up the AZL Indians with runners at first and third and nobody out in the inning. The good fortune was almost wasted, however, as Castillo grounded a ball to third and AZL Royals third baseman Ryan Dale came home to throw out Valdez, who was trying to score on the play. Haynes struck out the next batter, Silento Sayles, leaving the AZL Indians with first and second, two outs, and slim hopes of grabbing a late lead.
These slim hopes seemingly vanished when Victor Cabral sent another ground ball toward third base. Dale ranged to his left, but instead of making the easy play, he juggled the ball slightly and sent a rushed throw wide of first base, allowing Joel Mejia to score on the error and give the fortunate AZL Indians the lead, 4-3.
Jordan Milbrath came on and set down the AZL Royals in dominating fashion in the ninth, earning the save, and giving the AZL Indians a second consecutive win.
The Mejia brothers led the AZL Indians offensively going a combined three-for-seven with three runs scored and two RBIs. In addition, the AZL Indians played a clean game on the mound and in the field. Tribe pitchers in total gave up three runs (all earned), on only six hits with eight strikeouts against four walks and the Tribe defense played error-free baseball. Overall, it was a quality win for the AZL Indians and a win they can look to build on going forward.
The AZL Indians will try to push their win streak to three games against these same AZL Royals Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Surprise.