[During the offseason, The Inside Pitch will provide a month-by-month look-back at the record-setting 2014 season. Beginning with a review of April on Sept. 9, fans can relive each month as we anxiously count down to the 2015 campaign.]
“You work hard, you do what you’re supposed to do – come in and get your work in every day and go out and compete and leave everything on the field…you’ll achieve it.”
Speaking to his own determination which helped garner an International League All-Star selection, Casey Sadler unintentionally also framed the overall mindset of his Indianapolis Indians club, especially during the month of July:
The Tribe undoubtedly delivered on the first two steps.
But the results didn’t always follow.
After dropping six of the their final eight games through the end of June, the Indians continued the downward trend to begin July at 1-4 before finally regaining their footing.
However, the team’s lone victory during that opening stretch (July 3) was nothing short of spectacular.
Down 2-1 in the fifth at Louisville, Mel Rojas Jr., who came off the bench as a pinch runner in the third frame and remained in the lineup, began what proved to be a career night for the Triple-A rookie.
Rojas – in dramatic fashion – put his recent 2-for-16 skid in the rearview by surpassing both his hit total from that five-game stretch and RBI total from his first 30 games with the Indians. The Indianapolis native singled home the tying run in the fifth before also scoring in that frame, plated two with his second base knock while again scoring during the sixth, and capped the Tribe’s 9-2 beatdown with a two-run double in the top of the eighth.
In sum, Rojas victimized the hometown Bats by finishing a perfect 3-for-3 with two singles, a double, two runs scored and a career-high five RBI. All after entering as a late substitution.
“I was ready right from the get-go,” Rojas said after the victory. “We were playing an NL team, so you never know when you’re going to pinch hit. Unfortunately, [he entered following an injury], but I was ready.”
Though Louisville would return the favor via an 11th-inning walkoff in front of the Tribe’s July 4th capacity crowd of 14,303 fans, the Independence Day setback officially marked the beginning of the end for Indianapolis’ early-month woes.
Enter lefty Adam Wilk.
Exit Tribe defeats.
Just one season removed from pitching overseas in the Korean Baseball Futures League, Wilk authored a career night of his own to ensure his lone win during July — a five-hit shutout of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on July 6.
Wilk faced a mere five batters above the minimum 27 through the nine-inning effort. The Indians’ southpaw held the IronPigs to four singles and one double through the first eight frames, and after issuing his only walk of the contest with one out in the ninth inning, erased the potential threat by converting a comebacker to the mound into a game-winning doubleplay.
The nine-inning, complete-game shutout was the first of Wilk’s career and marked just the ninth such blanking by a Tribe pitcher at Victory Field. Our Twitter account provided the extra details and Wilk’s final line from the gem:
Sparked by the southpaw in their rotation, the Indians again shutout Lehigh Valley the following night to match the Victory Field Era (1996) record of consecutive blankings, en route to winning three straight and five of the next six games through July 9.
The Tribe was heating up at just the right moment, setting the stage for an epic, six-games-in-four-days showdown with IL West rival Columbus. The division foes entered the series separated by just 2.0 games, and were set to square off in two double headers and a pair of regularly-scheduled matchups down the Pre-All-Star home stretch.
But Indianapolis would defend its crown while missing an important offensive piece in All-Star outfielder Chris Dickerson.
The veteran and key cog of the Tribe’s attack was acquired by the Cleveland Indians on July 7 in exchange for cash considerations. At the time of the transaction, Dickerson was hitting .309 (73-for-236) with 12 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 44 runs, 30 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He ranked tied for third in the IL in on-base percentage (.407), eighth overall in batting average and first in toughest voids to fill for the Indians’ lineup.
Put simply by team hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo:
“He practices more game-like than most… His preparation is really good and he practices with a purpose,” Pagliarulo said prior to Dickerson’s departure.
But as they had throughout the campaign, the Indians used their “next man up” M.O. to persevere and prepare for the next opponent.
And starter Nick Kingham was more than prepared for Columbus.
The Triple-A rookie opened the pivotal series by flirting with a perfect game in the front end of a double header on July 10. Kingham retired the first 17 Clippers faced before Luke Carlin’s two-out single in the bottom of the sixth broke up the bid just four outs shy from perfection.
The Tribe’s righty concluded his masterful outing having faced just three batters above the minimum with two hits, one walk and four strikeouts in six scoreless innings.
Columbus’ Chris Aguilar was one of those strikeout victims:
Kingham and Co. edged the ClipShow 1-0 in Game 1 before the Tribe’s offense erupted for a 14-2 beatdown in Game 2 of the twin-bill. The dominating display featured homers from Rojas and Tony Sanchez, and was capped by the emergence of soon-to-be member of the Pirates closing committee John Holdzkom, who one-hit Columbus with two whiffs over a three-inning relief appearance.
Behind the double header sweep, the Tribe buffered its divisional lead to 4.0 games with just four contests remaining until the All-Star break. And each of those four games proved to be crucial, as Columbus would rally to finish the “first half” at 4-0 and move into a two-way tie with Indianapolis atop the IL West.
The Indianapolis Indians thus entered the much-deserved break with a record of 53-46. While a four-game series with the rival Clippers awaited on the other side of the Midsummer Classic, the respite was a time to step away from both the action and grind of a 144-game season…
Of course, there was still one game to be played for three Tribers during the July 14-16 break — the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game.
– ALL-STAR CAPSULES –
(at time of announcement)
Three of the top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization have been selected to the annual AFL Fall Stars showcase, with the club’s 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, Josh Bell, and 2014 Tribers, Elias Diaz and Adrian Sampson, each receiving an All-Star nod. The selections – by league rule – are made in conjunction with the players’ parent organizations.
The game is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET on Nov. 1 and will be broadcast live on MLB Network and online via MLB.com. [Fall Stars Rosters]
Bell, MLB.com’s 29th overall prospect, earned the All-Star selection at his recently inherited position of first base. The former outfielder begins Tuesday’s action having reached safely in 12 of 13 AFL contests with 11 hits, four walks, one hit-by-pitch and a .304 on-base percentage. Behind his rare combination of speed and power, Bell also ranks third in the league with five doubles, has scored six runs and totaled four RBI.
Diaz, who recently burst onto the scene as the Buccos’ heir-apparent behind the dish, recently began finding his stride with Scottsdale to go 5-for-14 (.357) over a four-game hitting streak leading up to the All-Star announcement. The 23-year-old backstop is 6-for-27 with one double, a triple, four runs scored and two RBI in eight total games on the season, and ranks second among AFL catchers by cutting down five runners attempting to steal (16 attempts, 31.3%). Diaz’s selection this offseason follows a 10-game Triple-A debut with the Indians in which he went 5-for-33 (.152) with one double and four runs scored.
Sampson, MLB.com’s No. 19 prospect in the Pirates system, capped a standout 2014 campaign with his Triple-A debut and a 2.13 ERA (3 ER/ 12.2 IP) in two starts at Victory Field. The 23-year-old righty received his All-Star invitation while pitching exclusively in relief with the AFL Scorpions, and along with posting a 3.38 ERA (3 ER/8.0 IP) with one save, has held opponents scoreless in four of his six outings this fall. Sampson enters Tuesday riding a four-inning scoreless streak over his last three appearances.
FULL FALL STARS ROSTERS
The Pittsburgh Pirates announced they have acquired infielder Justin Sellers from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations. The roster move was part of a series of weekend transactions, which also included reinstating right-hander Charlie Morton from the 60-Day Disabled List and designating right-hander John Axford and two-game Tribe rehabber Jeanmar Gomez for assignment.
Sellers, 28, spent the majority of his 10th professional season with division rival Columbus, hitting .254 (90-for-355) with 18 doubles, one triple, three homers, 31 runs and 40 RBI in 102 Triple-A games. The utility fielder recorded a solid .950 fielding percentage while appearing in 67 contests at shortstop, 18 at second base, 17 in left field and two at third base with the Clippers.
In addition, Sellers also went 3-for-16 (.188) with a run scored over 17 big league games with the Cleveland Indians in 2014.
Originally selected by Oakland in the sixth round (191st overall) of the 2005 MLB Draft, Sellers capped his four-year stint in the organization having received praise from Baseball America as a three-time Top 20 Organizational Prospect, the “Best Defensive Infielder” in the A’s’ system (2007) and the “Best Defensive SS” in the Midwest League (2007). He was then acquired by the Chicago Cubs in a package deal with outfielder Richie Robnett in exchange for right-hander Michael Wuertz on Feb. 2, 2009, before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a cash considerations transaction just prior to the beginning of the 2009 campaign.
Sellers enters the upcoming season at 50-for-252 (.198) with 13 doubles, a triple, three homers, 33 runs scored and 17 RBI over 99 Major League games with the Dodgers (2011-13) and Cleveland Indians (2014). He has also hit .267 (866-for-3246) with 54 homers and 401 RBI in 932 career games in the minors.
An additional transaction included designating right-handed reliever Jeanmar Gomez for assignment. Gomez, 26, impressed during a pair Triple-A rehab starts (strained right forearm) with the Tribe in 2013, allowing just one run on three hits in three innings on June 13 at Durham, before no-hitting Norfolk through five scoreless frames on June 19 at Harbor Park.
Congrats to Six-Year-Old Larry, The Winner of Rowdie’s Pumpkin Wars 2014
The fans have spoken and the winner of Rowdie’s 2014 Pumpkin Wars is six-year-old Larry! The original scare bear himself will now join Larry for one hour of trick-or-treating. Congrats Larry, but be warned this red bear loves candy almost as much as he loves baseball.
Check out last year’s Pumpkin Wars Winner trick-or-treating with Rowdie.
You can still make the Indians a part of your Halloween celebration just try out one of these special Indians themed pumpkin stencils.
A Bonus Discount!
Fans can also continue to “Treat” themselves to some new Indians gear this month! Just visit the Hot Corner Gift Shop October 6 – 30 and receive 20% off any black items in the store! Or visit the Indians online store and enter promo code TREAT14 at checkout to receive 20% off your online purchase of black items.