August 16, 2014 – AZL Indians

In the decade that I have spent covering the Arizona League Indians, no team has been more talented or more successful than the 2014 version and no player was more dominant than Bobby Bradley.

As a rookie that season out of Harrison High School, Bradley would go on to hit .361/.426/.652, winning the triple crown and MVP of the AZL. While he was consistent throughout the season, only going hitless in consecutive games twice, he had two games that really stuck out as far as individual production: July 16th and August 16th.

Looking into the August game specifically, the Indians couldn’t have gotten started any quicker. Playing against the Padres in Peoria, Bobby Ison walked as the first hitter in the game, then Jodd Carter and Yu Chang singled to load the bases. This was the perfect set up for the clean up man to clean it up and Bradley did just that with a grand slam. The Indians didn’t score again that inning, but they did bat around, allowing nearly an identical second inning. This time, Ison flew out, but Carter and Chang singled prior to another Bradley home run. While his eight home runs were a franchise record (since broken multiple times), this was his only multi-homer game of the season.

In the top of three, it was a similar crew who got things going, but Bradley was left out. Ison walked and stole second, then scored on a Chang single. He moved up on a wild pitch, but Bradley K’d to end the inning.

Justus Sheffield
Sheffield pitches for the AZL Indians during the 2014 season at Goodyear Ballpark. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

Mike Rayl made the start for the Indians in a rehab appearance from Akron and went two shut out innings with one hit, one walk and one strike out. Justus Sheffield, the normally scheduled starter, then came in and went four more scoreless, striking out 10 with one walk and one hit allowed. Sheffield’s first inning, the bottom of the third, was a perfect one with three K’s.

Chang tripled to start the fourth and wasn’t left waiting as Bradley immediately brought him home with a single. Li-Jen Chu then doubled him to third and both runners would eventually score thanks to a Joe Wendle ground out and a Nathan Winfrey single. The inning was extended as Willi Castro reached base thanks to an error by the second baseman, then he and Winfrey scored when Silento Sayles tripled.

YuCheng Chang1
Chang puts a ball in play during a 2014 AZL Indians game in Goodyear, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

With a 15 run lead, nearly all the starters from the offense were removed, but Sheffield continued to dominate. He struck out two in the fifth and two more in the sixth. He was replaced by Leandro Linares in the seventh, who immediately was put in the hole by a Grofi Cruz (Chang’s replacement at third) error. After a walk and a ground out, a sac fly brought home the first Padres run of the game, although it was unearned.

Following a quick 8th, Linares stayed in for the three inning save. He struck out the first batter, but allowed Mason Smith to reach on a wild pitch. A single, walk and double brought home two more runs with one more coming on a sac fly prior to the final out of the game.

Ultimately, this was the stand out game of a stand out season for Bradley (season best in home runs, runs scored and RBI), Sheffield (season best in strike outs and innings with the fewest hits allowed in any game) and Chang (season best in runs and hits). As a team, the offensive explosion was the second biggest of the year, only dwarfed by the 19 runs scored on July 16th. They were no stranger to double digit victories, however, as the 15 runs scored marked the 11th time (10-1 record) that they scored at least 10 with five other wins with nine runs scored.

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