ALLENTOWN – Some walls are too big to climb. For starters, a last minute switch of Indianapolis starting pitchers set the tone for the night. The Indians then threw out five pitchers backed by stellar defense that took away scoring opportunities as Indianapolis shutout the first place Lehigh Valley IronPigs 2-0 before 8,998 disappointed fans.
Gorkys Hernandez' one out single in the ninth inning off Lehigh Valley reliever Justin De Fratus capped an already good evening for the young centerfield prospect. All night with his great range defensively he roamed centerfield of Coca Cola Park as if he owned it.
"I saw a lot of great defensive plays. I saw doubles and triples that were taken away," Sandberg said. "It's a little bit different if we have a guy on second or third and they are pitching to us."
Hernandez robbed Pete Orr when he ran down what looked to be a sure double to lead off the third inning. Again in the fifth inning with Orr now on third, Brandon Moss launched one to deep left-center field only to have Hernandez track it down.
"I saw him three years ago in A-ball. He was a top prospect for the Detroit Tigers," Sandberg said of Hernandez, "He got an unbelievable on the ball. He's a good looking player."
Brian Bass pitched a game that typified the IronPig pitching staff this season. Minus one of his pitches that was completely ineffective, he used two pitches to scramble through seven innings of one-run baseball.
"He pitched out of some trouble," Sandberg said. "He could have given up a crooked number with the guys that were on base. But he was able to makes some pitches to keep it close and give us a shot at the end."
Bass (4-5) did take the loss with the lone run. Hernandez singled to start the inning and scored on Brian Friday's one out single.
"He had two pitches and he got guys out with two pitches," catcher Erik Kratz said of Bass's sinker and slider. "He worked corners with it and worked down in the zone."
The IronPig offense sputtered and failed to get runs across the plate again. Since the departure of Ronnie Belliard when he retired last week, the runs have been few. In the time since Belliard left the team, the IronPigs have won just two of six games.
"I think the guys are swinging the bats, I just think there are some good defensive plays. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the defense," Sandberg said.
This is also the third time that the IronPig's have faced pitcher with an ERA higher than seven and scored one or fewer runs. Gallagher started the game with a 7.02 ERA and improved his record to just 2-8 on the season in five innings. Four relievers finished the game for Indianapolis.
Kratz admittedly had subpar swings in his at-bats but is not too concerned and passed it off to just baseball.
"There were pitches that we should have hit, but there were also pitches we chased in the dirt," Kratz said.
The lineup saga began with Indian left-hander Rudy Owens, slated as the original starting pitcher, was to be replaced by Pirate reliever Mike Crotta who is making a rehab start. By 6:15, right-handed reliever Sean Gallagher was slated to take the hill, much to the angst of Sandberg who already had a lineup set for a left-handed pitcher.
"The lineup was posted at 1:30. I won't take it down and disappoint some guys. It's not the Majors. These guys are here to get at-bats and work on things.
Lehigh Valley's Ryan Edell (0-1, 7.94) will start against Owens (6-5, 5.00) in tonight's third game of a four game set with the Pittsburgh Pirate's top affiliate.