All of a sudden, the Spokane Indians can seriously think about coming out on top in the North Division during the first half of the Northwest League season. A six-game winning streak can do that for a team during short-season Class A play. Spokane defeated Eugene 4-3 in 12 innings Friday night to fashion its longest winning streak in three years. When the streak began, the Indians were in last place in the North, eight games behind Everett. Spokane (12-10) now trails Everett by three games. Read story
Spokane's win Friday also boosted its home record to better than .500 (7-6) for the first time this season. The Indians lost their first four games at Avista Stadium this summer.
Spokane also won its third consecutive extra-inning game, all at home.
Alex Gonzalez made his fifth and perhaps best start for Spokane. The 6-foot-2 right-hander, selected in the first round of last month's draft, allowed one run (Ronnie Richardson's third-inning homer to left field) and four hits in three innings to drop his earned-run average to 5.91. Gonzalez (0-3), limited to 45 pitches on Friday, had allowed 13 hits and six earned runs in 7 2/3 innings during his other starts.
The Indians took a 2-1 lead with a two-run sixth inning that included no hits. Spokane took advantage of three errors, two by second baseman Michael Bass, two walks and a wild pitch to take the lead.
Richardson, the 5-6 center fielder who has been rough on Spokane pitching during the first two games, gave Eugene a 3-2 lead in the seventh with a two-run double over the head of Indians right fielder Ryan Cordell. In the second inning, Cordell had help stop an Emeralds threat with the third superb diving catch he has made in games at Avista this season.
“(Richardson) swung the bat great tonight,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “I’m going to take a little blame when he got the hit late in the game. … We probably should have pitched around him there and I couldn’t pull the trigger fast enough, and he ended up getting the hit to give them the lead. But we came back and got the win, so even managers make mistakes sometimes.”
Brandon Garcia was 0 for 3 in the game and had seen his batting average dip to slightly less than .200 when he came up with the big hit.
“It's been a lot of hard work in the cage, accepting my role, playing every other day, but whenever my time’s called I need to be ready,” Garcia said. “That’s my job.”
The feel at Avista Stadium has shifted quickly.
“The guys are into it,” Hulett said. “You watch the dugout, they’re on the top step and they’re wanting to win every night.”