Most Spokane Indians fans left Avista Stadium long before Thursday night's 9-3 loss to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes was official. Rain started falling in the sixth inning, around the time the Volcanoes turned a 4-1 lead into a 9-1 edge with a five-run sixth that included five hits, two walks and an infield error. Anyone who stayed for the final three innings got soaked but watched Spokane score the final two runs. Travis Dean threw a scoreless eighth and ninth to give a tiny lift after a frustrating night for the Indians' usually reliable bullpen. Read story
A season-ending elbow injury to Indians pitcher Yohander Mendez forced the Indians to make a change in their starting rotation. Spokane turned to Eric Brooks, who made his first start of the season after 10 relief appearances.
Brooks (1-2), who took the loss, had his ups and downs. He allowed five hits and three earned runs over four innings, with three strikeouts and two walks. He retired eight of the first nine batters he faced, until Randy Ortiz's two-out single to center field ignited a two-run third inning. Ortiz scored on Brian Ragira's single to right, a hit that also ended up scoring Jeremy Sy when Indians right fielder Marcus Greene bobbled the ball. Greene's throw home may have been in time to get Sy, but catcher Joe Jackson couldn't hold the ball.
"(Eric) made some really good pitches that he didn’t get strikes on," Indians manager Tim Hulett said. "He ended up going to full counts and giving up some seeing-eye ground balls."
The Indians also had some shaky defense during S-K's big sixth inning. Ty Ross, the third of 11 batters to come to the plate in the inning, hit a shallow fly to center that Eduard Pinto misjudged for an RBI single. Three batters later, Ragira grounded to second baseman Janluis Castro, who threw to second base to attempt a forceout on Sy. Shortstop Gabe Roa dropped the ball.
Volcanoes starter Chase Johnson was drafted out of high school by the Texas Rangers, the Indians' parent club, but Johnson chose to play in college for three seasons until he was drafted this year by San Francisco.
The Indians reached Johnson for a run on two hits and a walk in the first inning, but he cruised afterward and ended the game with an ERA of 1.23 over 22 innings.
"My fastball location was pretty good," Johnson said. "I kind of struggled a little bit in the first inning, but the second on, I was finding the inside and outside corners."
The Volcanoes (3.30) and Indians (3.49) rank third and fourth, respectively, in team ERA in the Northwest League. Spokane leads the league with 443 strikeouts, including 20 during the first two games of the series.