Indianapolis Indians RF Gregory Polanco drives in two runs against the Toledo Mud Hens during the fifth inning. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Indianapolis outfielder Gregory Polanco is considered one of the best outfield prospects in baseball.
If the Mud Hens weren’t believers before Tuesday’s game, they certainly were afterward as Polanco led the Indians to an 11-6 victory at Fifth Third Field.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens lose 11-6 to Indianapolis
Polanco went 3 for 5 with a two-run single and a home run while also stealing a base. The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic raised his International League-leading batting average to .419 this season and now has three home runs, three stolen bases, and 20 RBIs.
“The kid looks like a player,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “He can run and throw.
“When you talk about a five-tool player, he’s the package.”
Polanco came close to making Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster. But based on his start with Indianapolis, which includes a .517 batting average in seven games against Toledo, he has not allowed that decision to affect his play.
“I had to put [not making the Pirates] behind me,” Polanco said. “I realized I just have to keep working so I can be there soon.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor noted that Polanco played just five games in Triple-A last season, and there are subtle improvements he can make to his game.
“He only had a very short look here last year,” Treanor said. “You want to see if he can get his feet on the ground here and make some strides.
“If he does, then [the Pirates] will have a decision to make.”
Tuesday’s game unraveled for Mud Hens starter Drew VerHagen in the fifth after the young right-hander had pitched out of trouble in the first four frames. A walk, a hit batsman, and a sacrifice set up a two-run bloop single to right by Blake Davis, and after that hit the dam seemed to burst.
A double and a walk loaded the bases for Polanco, who bounced a two-run single through the drawn-in infield off Toledo reliever Blaine Hardy. Andrew Lambo then pounded a two-run double off the wall in left.
“He threw the ball pretty decently, but he didn’t have much command of his changeup,” Parrish said of VerHagen. “Overall his fastball was pretty good, and he made some good pitches with the curveball.
“He didn’t pitch badly at all.”
Polanco opened the seventh with a long home run to right off Hardy, and the Indians pulled away with a four-run, eighth-inning rally against Jhan Marinez.
Marinez walked back-to-back hitters with one out, and Polanco singled in one run before Matt Hague hammered an opposite-field three-run homer well over the right-center fence.
“He’s not commanding his pitches,” Parrish said of Marinez. “He had the best breaking ball he had all year, and he was able to throw it for strikes. But he couldn’t locate his fastball.”
Meanwhile, the Hens did little against Indianapolis starter Casey Sadler, who allowed just four hits and two walks in seven shutout innings.
“It looks like [Sadler] has four pitches, and he keeps them down in the zone and mixes them up well,” Parrish said. “He had good arm action with his off-speed pitches.”
The Mud Hens took advantage of the Indians’ bullpen with a six-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. Toledo sent 10 men to the plate and had five hits, including a two-run single by Jordan Lennerton, and it used an Indianapolis error to score another run.
The Hens eventually loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but failed to score and suffered their fourth consecutive home loss.
“Being down like that, we could have easily packed it up and gone home,” Parrish said. “But guys battled and put some runs up there.
“Problem was we needed a touchdown, not runs.”
NOTES: Ezequiel Carrera saw a nine-game hit streak come to an end after he went 0-for-4 with a walk. … Toledo has a 2-7 record at Fifth Third Field this season.