The Indians and Columbus Clippers hooked up for a wild one last night at Huntington Park. The nine inning game lasted THREE HOURS AND FIFTY-ONE minutes making it the longest 9 inning game the Tribe has played this season and it fell only 30 minutes shy of the Indians 14 inning game vs. Toledo back on April 12. The clubs combined for 19 runs, 30 hits, and left a total of 20 runners on base. With the 13-6 win the Indians snapped a five game road losing streak and pulled to within 4.5 games of the West leading Louisville Bats.
The Tribe played last night under the watchful eye of Pirates GM Neal Huntington and will continue to do so until at least Friday. Neal is going to be with the team for this series and then head over to Toledo and watch Ian Snell pitch against the team he struck out 17 times back on June 28. Huntington had to be pleased last night with what he saw from Indians reliever Mike Koplove. Killer came in with the bases loaded and no one out in the 4th inning with the Indians leading 7-3. He retired Michael Brantley (line out to SS), Trevor Crowe (strikeout), and All-Star Jordan Brown (fly out to CF) to prevent the Clippers from scoring and basically saved the game for the Indians in the 4th inning. When it was all said and done Koplove pitched 3 innings (only the 15th time in his last 548 appearances) and picked up his first win as an Indian. Neal Huntington has done a nice job of putting together the Pirates bullpen, but should they trade an arm or two, he now knows what he might be able to expect from Koplove. After last night (his 33rd appearance) he is now 2-4 with a 1.56 ERA.
The other big story from last night was the continued power surge from SS/CF Brian Bixler. He homered for a career best third consecutive game and is riding a 7-game hit streak. He has 11 hits over that stretch including the three home runs. Brian went nearly 230 at bats without a home run until he launched a grand slam in game two of Sunday’s DH with Louisville. He has led off each of the past two games with a solo shot. Maybe even more impressive than the recent power has been his transition to the outfield. Bix was told last week he was going to be playing in center and that he should begin shagging some baseballs. This is a move that was made by the Pirates in the hope of adding to his versatility. As a matter of fact, when I spoke with Neal Huntington yesterday he asked me how Brian looked in center and he went on to tell me that he wants to see more of him in the outfield. I don’t think Bix needs to retire the infielder glove just yet, but it may not come out of the bag on this trip.
Catcher Ryan Doumit will be behind the plate tonight for Tom Gorzelanny’s start. Doumit is hitless in his rehab and until last night hasn’t see that many pitches. Maybe the GM’s presence had something to do with that? Doumit has hit the ball hard only twice and showed more patience last night than in his previous games. According to reports Ryan must show Huntington that his bat speed is back and his timing is where it needs to be or he will continue his rehab assignment through Sunday. Doumit is targeting a Friday return to the Pirates and that can still happen if he looks good tonight and tomorrow afternoon. No matter what he does tonight, his teammates are grateful he is providing the post-game spread. The players will be chowing down on some Buca di Beppo after the game tonight. I never eat the spread, but may grab a piece of Italian bread for the walk back to the hotel.
This is my second trip to Huntington Park and the first time we are staying in downtown Columbus. That seals the deal for the West as the best in the league when it comes to road trips. You can walk to all four parks (Toledo, Indy, Columbus, and Louisville) and they are all in downtown settings. On may walk to the park I stopped by Ted’s for lunch. Everything was really good until I received my change. I was owed 8 bucks back and the waiter gave me four $1 coins and two $2 bills. Wha? First of all, I’m getting a little tired of the $1 coins, they are great for ball markers and paying up skins, but I hate having them in my pockets. When was the last time you were giving a $2 bill for change? I was giving two of them! I was planning on tipping four bucks and the return change threw me for a loop. Was she setting up for a $4 tip by giving me the $2 bills and aren’t they supposed to bring you bad luck? Well, I didn’t want to just give back the $2 bills because that’s too easy and I settled on a $5 tip (hey, it’s per diem and it’s nice). So I kept the bills and I hope they don’t bring me any bad luck.
After leaving the team for family reasons on July 4th, All-Star reliever Chris Bootcheck is back with the team. He father is improving and doing better by the day after having emergency surgery over the weekend. Bootcheck has declined his invite to the Triple-A All-Star game so that he can head back home to be with his family. That leaves C Erik Kratz as the lone Indians rep at the All-Star game. Kratzy is thrilled with opportunity and this is his first ever selection.
I’ll have more updates after batting practice.
The Indians have made some roster moves this afternoon. Tagg Bozied is now a member of the Indians after signing a minor league free agent deal. Bozied was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2000 and has been in Triple-A since the 2003 season. Pittsburgh brings Bozied (pronounced Boez-AD) to the Indians via Taiwan. He was playing overseas before his release and arrived at the ballpark today at 5:00. He told me it has taken a while for his body to adjust to the time change and that it felt more like 5:00 am than 5:00 pm. He is playing tonight at first base. Catcher Milver Reyes was placed on the DL to create room for Bozied.
Donnie Veal (0-1, 6.43, 14IP, 16BB, 13K) has finished his Major League rehab assignment and has been called back up to Pittsburgh. After today’s game the Bucs optioned reliever Steven Jackson and 1B/OF Steve Peace to Indianapolis.
Finally, Brian Slocum has been activated off the DL and pitcher Brad Lincoln has been assigned to Class A Lynchburg’s roster. Lincoln will not pitch until he plays in the Future’s game this Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.
Oh, I almost forgot, after talking to a few people…apparently giving $2 bills, $1 coins, and 50 cent pieces out as change is something Ted’s Montana Grill does. So now it’s not that big of a deal because I know it’s their thing.