After a Wednesday afternoon loss the Indianapolis Indians walked into their clubhouse losers in 3 of the past four games and appeared to be on the brink. Although a 3-3 record over six days is nothing to be concerned about, the Indians needed to rally late (9th inning on Friday, erase 7-0 deficit Saturday, and 4 run 7th inning Monday) to win those three games. The last thing I want to do is overreact, but Thursday night was a critical game for the Tribe. Would LHP Justin Wilson bounce back from a career worst start? Can the offense put up a crooked number? Will the Indians win a game going away? It had been two weeks since the Indians won a game by more than 3 runs and it was time for a blowout. Well, I got what I wanted and then some.
Wilson allowed 2 unearned runs in the 1st inning and was on the ropes in the 3rd inning. The Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and a right-handed hitter at the plate. Wilson fell behind 2-0 and took a moment to walk behind the mound. “That was a situation where I had to let it fly. I was in a hole and it was time to go for it” The batter missed a 93 miles per hour fastball and missed on another 92 miles per hour heater. “Honestly I don’t really remember much other than I needed an out.” With the count 2-2 and the bases loaded, Justin Wilson threw a fastball on the outside corner to freeze the Yankee righty and end the inning. Scranton would not get a hit against Wilson the rest of the night.
Pitching coach Tom Filer was waiting for a sign of life from Wilson and he got it. “His last two starts were missing that extra giddy-up. He didn’t have life on the ball and the results showed that. Last night (Thursday) he had life and his fastball had that extra jump. He hit 95 in the 6th inning and the key is to find that trigger that turns him into an aggressive type of pitcher.” Filer believes Wilson has more work to do, but for the first time in three starts he once again saw life in the left-handers pitches.
In the 2nd inning Miles Durham drilled an opposite field double to score three and give the Indians the lead. The score would remain 3-2 into the bottom of the 4th inning and Alex Presley took over. The International League’s leading hitter hit the first of his two 3 run home runs in the 4th inning. In the 5th inning he made a leaping catch at the wall in left-center field to take away extra-bases. “I felt like Jordan; I had a good read and timed my jump and grab it above the wall.” A three run home run and a highlight reel catch is a full nights work, unless you are Alex Presley. His 8th inning 3 run home run turned the game into a rout and gave the 25 year-old-lefty his team leading 8th blast of the season and now the team lead in RBI.
“You never expect a night like that. Both home runs were with 2 strikes and I was able to put a good solid swing on those two pitches.” Presley is leading the league with a .349 batting average and his 74 hits (in 54 games) are 11 more than the 2nd place hitter. How about a look at Presley’s splits:
vs. RHP .346/.389/.575 vs. LHP .339/.379/.419
Manager Dean Treanor is more than pleased with what he has seen from Presley this season. “The big key is what do you do with a pitch you can hit. The good ones take advantage of a pitch regardless of the count. It doesn’t matter if he is hitting 3-0, 3-1, or with two strikes, he is focused on his pitch and drilling it.” Coming into this season the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted Presley to work on his base running. He always had quickness, but it never translated into stolen bases. “That was an aspect he needed to add to his game. Typical Presley, he focused on it and he is doing exactly what is asked of him.” Presley’s 13 stolen bases are the 3rd most in the league.
Minor League baseball is now starting up the All-Star voting campaign. Vote as many times as you would like and Alex Presley should receive your vote.
When it was all said and done the Indians did see Wilson bounce back and thanks to three swings that produced 9 runs the Indians won going away 13-2. Next up is a four games series with Syracuse.
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
Late Thursday night I tweeted “New delivery is working for Chris Leroux. Last 5 games 0 runs 9.2 innings. Hit 96 a couple of times including K of league HR leader.” I noticed it was retweeted several times and feel like you deserve some information. On May 1st the righty allowed 3 runs in an inning of work. Up to that point in the season only 55% of his 280 pitches were for strikes and his earned run average was an unsettling 6.92.
Pirates minor league pitching coordinator Jim Benedict was watching old video tape of Leroux and had an idea. Leroux explains “a few years ago my arm action was three-quarters and I was more deceptive with the ball. I didn’t realize that I was pitching more over the top and through the years had actually raised arm slot.” Benedict is a fan of video tape and is currently working with RHP Sean Gallagher and RHP Blaine Boyer on lowering their arm action to three-quarters. In the early going the move has been more beneficial for Leroux.
“I was sent to Double-A and Jim (Benedict) told me that it was not a demotion, but the place where I needed to work on the new delivery. After a couple of weeks he told me that I’d be back up and he was right.” In addition to the new arm action Chris Leroux has changed his slider. “I used to throw a slurve, but after Tommy John surgery the Florida Marlins told me to scrap the pitch and use a slider. My slider was always good, but not great and now I’m back trying out my slurve.” The results showed Thursday night. His new breaking ball had noticeable bite and couple that pitch with his 96 mph fastball and the Indians have a new pitcher. Since returning from Double-A Chris Leroux is throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes and has not allowed a run in five appearances.
NEWS AND NOTES:
I want to thank all of the readers for the positive feedback from the blog entries on Tim Wood and the recent promotions. It really means a lot that you enjoy the blog and enjoy following the Indianapolis Indians. It sounds very corny, but I like about the Tribe and writing for you.
Tonight the Indians open a four game series with the Syracuse Chiefs. The is no DH for the four game set and the next 12 games will be played under National League rules. The rotation for the Syracuse series will begin Friday night with Brad Lincoln, followed by Sean Gallagher, Rudy Owens, and then Brian Burres.
Hope you can tune into the broadcasts on wnde.com or 1260 am Indianapolis on the iheartradio app.