It was a picture-perfect night for baseball on Thursday as the Indianapolis Indians defeated the Louisville Bats 6-1 at Victory Field, lowering their magic number to clinch the International League West Division title to just one.
An agonizing half hour slipped by after Indianapolis had beaten the Bats as the Indians waited (im)patiently for the Toledo Mud Hens to finish off a 10-3 win over the Columbus Clippers, securing the Tribe's first International League West Division title since 2000.
It will also be first trip to the postseason for Indianapolis since 2005, when the Indians won the IL Wild Card. This season has been historic for the Tribe, who have won 80 games, the most since that last division title in 2000.
Indianapolis scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning. After working to a full count and fouling off several pitches, 3B Matt Hague hit a groundball single through the hole at shortstop to drive in SS Chase d'Arnaud from second. d'Arnaud had also scored the Tribe's first run of the game when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to left, his fifth of the season and second in three days.
With his 2-for-3 performance on Thursday night, d'Aranud is now 9-for-17 (.529) in his past four games with a double, two home runs, four RBI and six runs scored. His first-inning longball tied the game at 1-1 after the Bats had scored in the top of the first when RF Felix Perez hit a two-out single to drive in LF Willie Harris.
The Indians put up three insurance run in the top of the seventh, the first when C Tony Sanchez doubled home LF Brandon Boggs to make it 3-1. Indianapolis then scored a pair of runs when a would-be inning-ending double play was botched, allowing both Sanchez and PH Jose Morales to cross the plate.
Indianapolis scored its final run of the ballgame in the bottom of the eighth inning as Sanchez recorded his second RBI hit of the contest, driving in Hague with a single to left.
The victory secured the first Triple-A win of RHP Phil Irwin's career in just his second start for Indianapolis. Irwin (6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) struck out nine in six innings and has now recorded 17 strikeouts across 10 career Triple-A innings.
In support of Irwin, a trio of Indianapolis relievers combined for three scoreless innings. After RHP Logan Kensing (1.0 IP, 1 BB) and LHP Justin Wilson (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) tossed the seventh and eighth inning, RHP Tim Wood let things get interesting in the ninth inning, allowing a hit and two walks before closing out the victory. Wood (1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 K) left the bases loaded to earn his 21st save of the season, which at the time tied him for the most in the International League.
Taking the loss for Louisville was RHP Todd Redmond, who allowed just one earned run but also an unearned run in six innings of work. Redmond (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR) was coming off of his major league debut, when he took a loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The 80 wins also signify the most for the Indians as an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Indianapolis become Pittsburgh's top minor league affiliate in 2005 -- the year of their most recent trip to the postseason -- and earlier in 2012 signed a Player Development Contract with the Pirates to continue working together for at least the next two seasons.
By clinching the IL West, Indianapolis is guaranteed home playoff games on Wednesday, Sept. 5, and Thursday, Sept. 6.
In 2005, the Indians beat the Buffalo Bisons three games to two in the first round of the playoffs before falling three games to none to Toledo in the IL Championship Series. After the 2000 season, Indianapolis beat the Durham Bulls three games to two in the first round and won the IL Championship Series by beating Scranton/Wilkes-Barre three games to two.
The Tribe then went on to win the Triple-A World Series three game to one over Pacific Coast League champion Memphis. It was the eight Triple-A/Junior World Series win in Indianapolis franchise history.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun