INDIANAPOLIS — If a player pays too much attention, early-season baseball stats can read like either a Stephen King novel or a Superman comic book written in large letters across a stadium scoreboard.
The truth is that the first week of any season is never as horrific or heroic as it seems.
So the Clippers boarded the team bus after a 3-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians yesterday afternoon with a split of the season-opening four-game series that began with two wins.
“It’s just part of the game,” Clippers starter Fernando Nieve said. “We’re just starting the season. We know that we’ve got a good team. So we’re just going to bounce back.”
Nieve (0-1) also knew that he pitched well enough at Victory Field to win this one. He allowed two runs — one earned — over six innings in his first outing with the Clippers. He struck out seven.
A trio of Indianapolis pitchers — Kris Johnson, Ryan Reid and Vic Black — simply pitched a little better.
Brandon Inge, who was 0 for 8 after the first three games, gave Johnson (1-0) a 1-0 lead with a two-out, opposite-field home run in the first inning.
The hard-throwing Nieve struck out the side in the first and had five strikeouts by the end of the second.
“He was good,” Clippers manager Chris Tremie said. “He commanded his fastball well. He threw some good sliders, also. Really, he only got into tough waters a couple of times, and he pitched his way out.”
Nieve walked Inge to open the fourth, but he got Brett Carroll to ground into a double play.
“I felt really good during the game,” Nieve said. “I was getting ahead on the count. I like to get ahead and make the hitter think about where (the next pitch) is coming. I had a good fastball today, and I was working with that.”
The Clippers couldn’t capitalize on their two chances against Johnson. They had runners on first and second with two outs in the second when Ryan Rohlinger hit a sharp one-hopper that shortstop Jordy Mercer knocked down. Mercer retrieved the ball and threw to third baseman Oscar Tejeda, who caught Jeremy Hermida on a wide turn of the base for the out.
In the sixth, Johnson walked Matt Carson and Hermida singled to start the inning. Reid relieved and got a double-play bouncer from Yan Gomes.
A double play stymied the Clippers again in the ninth. Gomes doubled with one out and Mike McDade singled to put runners on the corners. But Black coaxed a double-play grounder from Juan Diaz to end the game.