For many years, the Indians have been criticized for having some sub-par draft classes, getting few regular contributors to the everyday lineup in Cleveland while the club needed to supplement the poor selections by trying to pick off young talent from other teams.
Recent drafts, especially in this second decade of the 21st century, have provided much more promise and Lake County’s Tyler Krieger is quickly establishing himself as a top prospect to watch down on the farm. On Saturday, the 22-year-old switch-hitting middle infielder had five hits in six at bats and the Captains tallied 19 hits and a dozen runs in a 12-0 shutout of the Lansing Lugnuts.
Krieger, the Indians’ fourth round pick out of Clemson in the 2015 draft, struck out in his first at bat as the Captains went very quietly through the first three innings, failing to capitalize on doubles in the second and third. But leading off the top of the fourth, the Captains broke through with Krieger leading the charge.
In the fifth, Krieger got another turn, but not before the Captains started the run-scoring party without him. Anthony Miller singled to center and moved to third on a double from Sam Haggerty. A single from Bobby Ison scored Miller to make it a 2-0 Lake County lead. Nathan Lukes reached on a botched force play at second base, allowing Haggerty to score and Ison to reach third safely. Lukes moved to second with a stolen base and Willi Castro struck out to bring up Krieger, who lifted a single to right to score both base runners and push the Captains score to 5-0. Krieger, who had moved up on the throw to the plate, was able to score as Mejia grounded into a fielder’s choice but reached on a throwing error by the Lansing shortstop. Three more came to the plate, including the tenth of the inning in Miller, but no more scored as the five-run inning gave the Captains a 6-0 lead.
After threatening briefly in the sixth, the Captains scored in each of the final three frames. Krieger led off that effort in the seventh with a line drive double to left. A wild pitch advanced him to third and he scored easily on a single to center from Mejia. Mendoza, who reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a passed ball, came in to score on a single from Miller. Connor Marabell, who walked before Miller’s base knock, also scored on a force at second from Haggerty to make it 9-0.
Lake County sent eight men to the plate in the eighth, as Krieger started the rally off of reliever Evan Smith. With one down, Castro struck out but reached safely on a wild pitch. Krieger singled him to third and advanced to second on the throw to the hot corner. Mejia struck out, but Castro scored on the throw down to first to retire him while Krieger advanced to third. He would score on a single to center by Mendoza. Two more singles would follow to load the bases, but Haggerty grounded into a force at second to end the scoring onslaught, albeit briefly, at 11-0.
The Captains used three singles in the ninth to force in the 12th run, as Lukes singled with one out, Krieger singled him to third with two outs, and Mejia followed by driving home Lukes with a single to left. Yoiber Marquina gave up a single in the ninth before getting a fly out and striking out the final two hitters looking to end it.
Krieger paced the offense with his 5-for-6 day at the plate, driving in two runs and scoring four times, all after his strikeout in his first at bat. The impressive day at the plate, coming in just his 15th professional game of his career, pushed his season batting average to .368. He has hit in 12 of his first 15 games in the minors.
Miller and Haggerty each had three hits and an RBI a piece for the Captains. All three hits from Haggerty were doubles, giving him four for the year. Mejia, Mendoza, and Marabell had two hits each. Castro, the designated hitter for the day, was 0-for-6 with three strikeouts, but did score a run.
The loud day at the plate from the Captains may have drowned out the effort on the mound from Lake County right-hander Casey Shane, who allowed just one hit over five innings on the mound. He did walk five, but struck out four and was able to escape any harm created by the free passes. The bullpen of Christian Meister, Kieran Lovegrove, and Marquina threw four scoreless innings, allowing one hit each. Meister walked a pair and struck out one.
The Captains improved to 11-6 with the win and will go for the split of the four-game set with the Lugnuts on Sunday afternoon in the 2:05 PM scheduled start time from Cooley Law School Stadium. In a battle of southpaws, left-hander Sam Hentges will start for the Captains against the Lugnuts’ Tayler Saucedo.
Photo: Tim Phillis/TCP Photography