The Indians rookie level minor league history began in 1967 in the Gulf Coast League and ultimately moved to Arizona in 2009 when their spring training facility flipped from Winter Haven, Florida, to Goodyear, Arizona. They didn’t have real success, however, until the 2014 season. In that season, their 37-16 record put them three games ahead of the second best AZL team and 13.5 games up in their own division. This earned them a first round bye, after which they beat the Rangers 7-3 on September 30th to advance to the single elimination championship game.
On September 1st, that championship game took place at Goodyear Ballpark against the AZL Giants. The Indians started their #3 starter in 2014, Shao-Ching Chiang (4.53 ERA through 45.2 IP) and the Giants went with their best, left handed starter Matt Gage (1.89 ERA through 33.1 IP). The Giants started with a bit of strategy as Christian Lichtenthaler bunted back to Chiang for a single, then the rattled Chiang hit the next batter, but stranded both runners in the first. The Indians similarly got a hit, by Yu Chang, in the bottom half, but did no damage.
Things continued to be tense in the second as the Giants hit safely twice, but couldn’t score, then the Indians began the inning with a Li-Jen Chu triple, but was also stranded. Things settled down a bit through the middle of five with only a Chang double giving either team a scoring opportunity.
The scoreless tie was finally broken in the bottom half thanks to a Willi Castro double and Silento Sayles single. With the lead, Chiang was pulled and manager Anthony Medrano went to his #4 starter, Justus Sheffield. He allowed two base runners, but no runs and struck out his final two hitters.
Gage was also pulled for the Giants heading into the bottom of sixth and things got going. With one out, Bobby Bradley reached on a two base error. Chu then walked and Emmanuel Tapia singled to load the bases. Alexis Pantoja singled one run home, then Castro brought home another on a ground out. With two outs, things could have been over, but this is what followed:
Bobby Ison 2 RBI double
Silento Sayles HBP
Jodd Carter 2 RBI double
Chang RBI single (moved up on WP)
Bradley RBI single
Tapia RBI single
Castro 2 RBI single (moved up on WP)
Ison RBI single
2 pitchers after the second out was recorded, Sayles K
Medrano may have planned on riding Sheffield the rest of the way, but with a 13 run lead it wasn’t necessary to push the 2014 draft pick. Instead, top reliever Jared Robinson came in for the seventh. He allowed a lead off single, but Carter managed to pick him off at second from left. Robinson quickly retired the next two hitters including a strike out of the final batter.
With the Giants thoroughly demolished, the Indians only added a Chang solo home run and Bradley single to move the score to 14-0. Interestingly, because of the error in the beginning of the sixth, only this and the run scored in the fifth were earned.
Argenis Angulo came in for a 1-2-3 8th including two K’s, the Yoiber Marquina came in for the ninth and allowed a single, but struck out two more to ensure the win. With his five shut out innings, Chiang earned the win and Sheffield earned the hold. Overall, Indians pitching allowed six hits with two walks and 12 strike outs over nine shut out innings.
Offensively, every single Indian had a hit and scored a run with all but Chu knocking in a run. Chang’s four hits in five AB lead the way as did the three RBI from Ison and Castro while five different hitters scored twice. While Chang had the only home run, four different hitters (including Chang) doubled and Chu tripled.
From this game, Sheffield, Chang, Bradley and Castro all made the big leagues, although Sheffield did so with the Yankees and Mariners and Castro with the Tigers. While the Giants had a handful of players from the 2014 season make it big, no players from this game have reached the Majors to this point.
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