The Spokane Indians were in jeopardy Sunday of notching a fourth consecutive loss with the Northwest League's All-Star break on the horizon. One of three Indians named to the all-star team took care of that. Infielder Janluis Castro hit a solo home run to right field in the eighth inning to give the Indians a 2-1 victory over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes at Avista Stadium. Salem-Keizer won the five-game series 3-2, as it did last month at Keizer. The Indians have completed regular-season play against two teams, the Volcanoes and Boise. Next will be their final five games with the Eugene Emeralds, at Eugene, but that will wait until Thursday, after the All-Star Break. Spokane is 4-1 against Eugene this season and is beginning a streak of eight consecutive road games against teams that have a losing record vs. the Indians. Spokane's next homestand begins Aug. 16 with the first of five games against first-year franchise Hillsboro. Read story
If the Indians are going to make a move and qualify for postseason, the next two-plus weeks should provide a perfect opportunity. Starting Thursday, Spokane plays five games against Eugene, six against Tri-City and five against Hillsboro. Spokane is a combined 11-5 against those teams this year.
The Indians improved their home record to 14-13 and their record against the South Division to 16-14. The Volcanoes outscored Spokane 25-18 during the five games.
The Indians were supposed to face Chris Johnson (4-3, 2.31 ERA) on Sunday, but the Volcanoes wanted him to have the chance to pitch during Tuesday's All-Star Game in Everett. Johnson has struck out 58 and walked five this season.
Spokane's Kelvin Vasquez pitched as if he was facing an All-Star, shrugging off two walks in the first inning and Blake Miller's solo homer in the second to allow just a bunt single from the third through sixth innings.
"The first inning he struggled a little bit with the strike zone, but after that he settled in and did a great job," Indians manager Tim Hulett said of Vasquez. "He used his changeup really well today. We’ve been on him about using his changeup more and even though he didn’t always throw it for strikes he used it early in counts, which really made him a lot more effective."
Luis Pollorena, who was promoted from the Arizona Rookie League and joined the team Saturday, stepped right in to a 1-0 game and struck out three in two innings to give Spokane a chance to rally.
"I hadn’t seen him pitch," Hulett said. "Nobody knew a lot about him other than what we watched on TV when he was in the College World Series (with Mississippi State). He carved them up pretty good tonight. He has a pretty good idea. He manages the strike zone and uses all of his pitches, so he’s going to be a good addition to our staff."
The Indians caught a break in the seventh when S-K first baseman Miller couldn't quite handle a relay from shortstop John Polonius that would have completed a double play to keep Joe Jackson, who had tripled, from scoring. The throw glanced off Miller's glove.
"The pitcher (Juan Nova) threw the ball kind of in the baseline a little bit," Hulett said. "The shortstop (Polonius) got it and (base runner Jamie) Jarmon was right in his kitchen. The guy tried to throw it extra hard and I don’t know if he threw a little cutter or a sinker, but it handcuffed the first baseman."
John Straka, in his first save opportunity, allowed a pair of one-out singles before ending the game with a liner to Cam Schiller at first base and a strikeout.
"(Straka) was the guy today because we used everybody else yesterday," Hulett said. "He’s one of those guys who really pounds the bottom of the zone. When he got guys on, he went to his slider and had a lot of swings and misses."
Hulett and most of the Indians will remain in town until Wednesday evening, when they'll head to Eugene.
"We’re ready for the break," Hulett said. "Our guys just need a breather. We play hard. We play for nine innings. We don’t get blown out very much and we don’t blow the other team out very much."