AZL Indians rally past AZL Dodgers, 7-2
Big fifth inning provides the difference for the Tribe
GOODYEAR – The AZL Indians took care of business Monday night beating the AZL Dodgers 7-2. Although the AZL Indians looked shaky to begin the evening, they managed to come through with a five run fifth inning to power them past their Central Division rival.
Mitch Brown took the mound for the AZL Indians and, despite battling a slight illness, delivered a gutsy outing for the Tribe. After a scoreless first inning from both sides, the AZL Dodgers were able to break through first with a run in the top of the second inning.
AZL Dodger second baseman Melvin Santana drove a Brown fastball the opposite way well over the right fielder’s head for a stand up triple to get things going. Then, after Brown issued a walk, Jaylen Harris sent a hard ground ball back up the middle. It initially appeared that the grounder would find the glove of a Tribe middle infielder and harmlessly end the inning. Unfortunately, however, the ball deflected off of Brown and trickled into shallow right field, bringing home Santana. The unlucky break did not fluster Brown though, and he was able to limit the damage to only the one run.
The AZL Indians quickly responded in the next half inning with a run of their own. Joel Mejia led off the inning with a hard single to center field and advanced to second on a passed ball. Shortstop Ivan Castillo then came up and hit a high chopper over the first baseman’s head for a game tying RBI single.
The third inning was the make or break inning for both Brown and the AZL Indians. Struggling with control all night, Brown walked the first three batters of the inning, setting the AZL Dodgers up with a great opportunity to crack the game wide open.
It was at this point that Brown could have imploded and put the Tribe in a huge hole. However, Brown showed resilience and battled to retire the next three hitters, two of which came via the strikeout. This was big for the AZL Indians to get out of, since many of the games they have lost this season were the result of one or two really bad innings.
It was also a great confidence boost for Brown, who was applauded by his coaches for demonstrating both maturity and development in a critical moment for his team, despite being hampered by an ailing stomach. He would finish the night allowing one earned run on three hits in three innings with three strikeouts and five walks.
The AZL Dodgers managed to break the 1-1 tie with another run in the top of the fourth inning, pushing across a run on a throwing error by center fielder Clint Frazier.
Trailing 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, the AZL Indians would capitalize on their opportunities and rally for five enormous runs in the inning.
Takuya Tsuchida started the rally with a beautifully placed drag bunt up the third base line and Frazier followed this by drawing a walk after working the count full. LeVon Washington then stepped to the plate and smoked a line drive deep in the left center field gap, which resulted in a triple and easily scored both Tsuchida and Frazier.
The first five Tribe hitters would reach in the inning and the outs the AZL Dodgers did manage to collect were productive as both Matt LaPorta and Mejia drove in runs off of sacrifice flies. The inning was capped off with a well-hit ground ball off the bat of Castillo that the AZL Dodger first baseman was unable to come up with, resulting in Victor Cabral scoring the fifth and final run of the inning.
It was great to see the AZL Indians’ offensive string together a strong inning and take what turned out to be a commanding 6-2 lead.
I say commanding mainly because the AZL Indian bullpen absolutely manhandled their opponents and made the four run lead feel more like a 10 run blowout. Martin Alcantara, who earned the win on the evening, highlighted the performance, as he pitched two innings of scoreless relief, allowing only one hit, while striking out five.
In total, the stable of relievers pitched six innings of scoreless baseball and managed to give up only one hit and collect eight strikeouts against six walks.
The AZL Indians would end up getting an insurance run in the eighth inning on a throwing error by AZL Dodger reliever Lenix Osuna, which scored Mike Giuffre, who had doubled earlier in the inning.
It was great to see the Tribe put together a fairly complete victory where pitching, hitting, and fielding all seemed to come through in big moments. The one thing the AZL Indians should be wary of, however, was the number of walks they allowed (11) as it continues to be somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for the team.
The AZL Indians will get another off day on Tuesday, but will try to keep building on their success Wednesday against the AZL Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.