For the first time since June 18, left-hander Logan Allen was set to start for Triple-A Columbus after spending just about 10 days with Cleveland.
Allen opposed Indianapolis right-hander Beau Sulser, who entered the game on a 10.1-consecutive scoreless innings streak and owned the Triple-A East Midwest Division ERA title with 3.44.
Despite perhaps a slight edge among the arms on paper, there was a distinct difference in who held the upper hand between Allen and Sulser Saturday night, and it was the latter who outdueled a major-league starter.
Allen began his outing with a three-pitch strikeout of shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon, flashing an overpowering 83 mph breaking ball as his out pitch.
However, the 24-year-old southpaw never settled in after that at-bat, and just seven of his next 20 pitches in the first frame went for strikes.
At least two Indianapolis runners reached in each of the first three innings, and the Indians did their damage early.
Catcher Taylor Davis singled in the first run of the game with one out in the top of the second inning, and Strange-Gordon followed with a 2-run home run to the base of the scoreboard beyond the right-center field wall, marking the second-straight game with a dinger for the newly-signed infielder.
Each of the first three hitters in the third frame reached base against Allen, and left fielder Bligh Madris doubled in another run to put Indianapolis’ lead at four. Allen managed to pick up his fourth strikeout on a sword against third baseman Hunter Owen, but Macias proved it was no matter in the very next at-bat.
The 23-year-old belted a 3-run home run the opposite way and over the right field wall on the second pitch off Allen, Macias’ first dinger since being called up from High-A Greensboro just Tuesday.
Allen allowed a double to Sharpe right after, and Columbus manager Andy Tracy pulled the left-hander after he gave up his seventh hit in 2 1/3 innings.
It was Allen’s sixth start this season across any level of that length or less. The seven runs allowed tied for the second-most in his outings this season, and his four walks were a season-high.
Meanwhile, Sulser shut down Columbus’ lineup, spinning seven shutout innings while picking up as many strikeouts and issuing no free passes.
“I knew that he threw a bunch of pitches,” second baseman Owen Miller said. “I knew he mixed it well and stuff like that, got us kind of out in front early. Just kind of got us off our game and stuff, got us swinging at pitches we probably couldn’t drive. He pitched well, you’re gonna have those nights.”
The 27-year-old lowered his ERA to 3.02, and lefty Joe Jacques and righty Shea Spitzbarth held down the final two innings without much opposition.
Down to the last out while staring at the fourth shutout loss of the season, Miller erased the possibility with an opposite-field solo shot for his sixth home run of the year — and third hit of the night.
“Just trying to put a good swing on a ball,” Miller said. “If it was over the plate, I was trying to swing, hit it hard. I got a good pitch and hit it hard.”
Columbus’ lineup didn’t find much luck getting momentum going, and placed its only runner in scoring position in the first inning when first baseman Trenton Brooks and Miller each singled.
All but one Indianapolis starter recorded a hit, and seven of them managed multi-hit performances. The 15 hits allowed tied for the most allowed by Columbus this season.
Brooks also recorded a multi-hit game and the Clippers managed seven hits, but no walks and two double plays forced Columbus to work to no avail.
“Every day is a new day, I mean, it feels good getting hits like that,” Miller said. “We’ll take it into tomorrow’s day game and hopefully get some hits tomorrow, too.”
Logan Allen: 2.1+ IP, 7 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 4 K
Trenton Brooks: 2-for-4
Owen Miller: 3-for-4, HR
1st: 93 84 83 93 93 92 93 93 92 85 94 83 92 93 93 94 93 83 91 93 93 92 92
2nd: 92 91 85 85 85 93 84 92 84 93 92 93 92 92 92 92 81 91 92 92 83 82 92 92 83 81 92 84
3rd: 76 91 81 92 82 91 91 91 84 91 90 90 92 85 76 94 92 90 93
3rd: 74 87 88 87 85 87 86 83 84 87 80 76 75 89
4th: 85 87 80 89 75 76 76 76 76
5th: 84 75 87 75 76 87 87 76 76 88 76 76 89 86 81 77 88 90 76
5th: 90 84 86 90 87 77 90 84 87 92 87 79 78
6th: 85 76 79 92 92 78 85 92 87 85 86
7th: 92 92 92 93 88 88 91 92 93 91 87
8th: 99 86 98 99 89 99 88 99 99 99 85 89 99 98 87 87 99 85 99 85 99 98 98 99 99 97 99 98 99 99 98 96 96 86 97
9th: 96 95 95 92 98 89 90 96 95 95 93 96 92 92 96 94 96
Nolan Jones’ arm and legs on display in right field
The Nolan Jones in the outfield experiment hasn’t produced home run-like results, but it hasn’t been a bust, either.
Jones made his 15th start in right field Saturday while hitting No. 5 in the Clippers’ lineup. He came into the game with 120 innings played in the corner outfield position, and interestingly enough, had just one error all season while manning right field.
It’s also interesting to note that Jones began 2021 with no experience in the outfield at any level of his minor league career. The 23-year-old was also riding a 13-game errorless streak, third-longest among Clippers’ players.
Indianapolis’ starting lineup held three left-handed hitters, including 10-year major league veteran shortstop Dee Strange-Gordon, but it wasn’t a pull-hitter who tested Jones in right field.
In the top of the second inning, Macias hit an infield single and reached after shortstop Gabriel Arias’ throw pulled Brooks off the first base bag, but not by much.
With one out, center fielder Chris Sharpe walked to put two men on base. Stepping in to hit for the first time in the game was catcher Taylor Davis, and he drove a 3-1 pitch from Allen the other way toward Jones in right field.
Macias’ speed allowed him to score from second base, but Jones instinctively scooped the ball from the ground and fired toward third — exactly where Sharpe was heading.
Jones’ throw beat Sharpe to the bag by more than a step, and Yu Chang applied the tag for the second out.
It was Jones’ first assist while in the outfield, and it had all the makings of a veteran-like play: instincts, form, power throw and great location.
That wasn’t all from Jones, though. In the top of the sixth, Jones ran down a flyball in foul territory off the bat of third baseman Hunter Owen, taking advantage of his length and agility for the first out of just the second 1-2-3 inning by Columbus’ defense.
While Jones has had a learning curve while learning a new position, he’s slowly showing that he can be capable of playing a corner outfield position
Nolan Jones: 0-for-3, 2 putouts, 1 outfield assist