Wednesday night served as a playoff tune-up for Spokane Indians starter Richelson Pena, who capped his regular season with a fine performance marred by basically one pitch -- a 0-2 high fastball that Salem-Keizer's Austin Slater deposited over the left-field fence for a three-run homer in the third inning. The next batter, Skyler Ewing, doubled to left field before Pena closed his night by retiring the final 11 Volcanoes, including five by strikeouts. Read story
The Indians plan to go with a three- or four-man rotation for the playoffs, depending on the outcomes. Pena (5-5, 3.36 ERA), Nick Gardewine (6-3, 4.55) and Derek Thompson (4-6, 3.21) figure to start three of the games. Indians manager Tim Hulett said Reed Garrett (6-1, 4.13) may serve as the fourth starter.
Garrett pitched two innings of relief on Tuesday against Salem-Keizer and picked up the win. Thompson, the Indians' strikeout king with 73, followed Garrett with a scoreless inning, including two strikeouts.
Gardewine started Monday's game against S-K and worked five sharp innings.
Pena struck out eight and walked none on Wednesday. He entered the game with the Northwest League's sixth-best ERA and dropped one spot by the time he exited. Thompson's ERA ranks fifth in the league.
"(Pena) settled in and pitched really nice after (Slater's homer)," Hulett said. "It’s a shame we couldn’t get enough offense tonight to bail him out, because he really pitched well. That was his last start for the regular season. We just want to manage the pitch count a little bit, but he was pretty comfortable with what he was doing tonight."
The Volcanoes' Keury Mella made his fifth start since joining the team from Class A Augusta (Georgia). He had pitched just 10 innings in the previous four starts, but he made it through five against Spokane. His ERA stands at 1.20 after Diego Cedeno dinged him for a first-inning RBI single.
"(Mella) was lighting up the radar gun from 93 to 97, so that makes it tough," Hulett said. "I think we were fortunate to get one (run) really early before he got real comfortable throwing strikes."
Indians Eduard Pinto and Seth Spivey continued their back-and-forth battle for the league batting crown. Leader Pinto went 1 for 4 to end the night at .336. Spivey finished 1 for 3 and is at .332. Third place belongs to S-K's Christian Arroyo (.325), who hasn't played in the series because of the flu.
"Sometimes I forget about (the batting race), but I like it because it keeps them focused every game, because they’re trying to get hits all the way down the line," Hulett said. "It doesn’t really matter who wins it or if nobody wins it, they’ve had a great year."