It was put-up-or-shut-up time for the Spokane Indians on Friday. The Indians put up 10 runs and 11 hits on the scoreboard to overwhelm the Vancouver Canadians 10-3 to start a key Northwest League series at Avista Stadium. Read story
The Indians entered Friday's game having experienced their first negative streak of the season, losing four of six games at Eugene after having gone 4-0 against the Emeralds to open the year in Spokane.
Vancouver was on a 7-3 tear and had cut Spokane's North Division lead from 4 1/2 games to two. The Canadians took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning and trailed just 4-3 after 4 1/2 innings when the Indians pieced together three-run innings in the fifth and sixth.
Spokane had scored just two runs during 21 innings on Wednesday (a 12-inning game) and Thursday, and opened Friday with two scoreless innings before the dam burst.
“I think it was just a long road trip,” Hulett said of the nine-games-in-eight-days swing in which Spokane finished 5-4. “The guys were getting tired. You look at the first two innings of this game and I think both teams had a late night of travel and it was very tough. The advantage we have is we’re home with a big crowd, so you could see our energy level picking up and their energy level didn’t.”
Spokane's original lineup had Zach Cone playing center field and batting sixth while shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa was slated to hit ninth. Cone was a late scratch, moving Kiner-Falefa to sixth in the order and inserting Saquan Johnson to center field and No. 9 in the order.
Johnson started the third-inning rally in a bizarre way, striking out to lead off but reaching first base on a wild pitch. Eduard Pinto followed with a walk and, one out later, Jose Trevino thumped his first homer of the night, a three-run shot to left.
“It was a real long road trip,” Trevino said. “We had nine games, so we were trying to come together and bring the energy to the field. Once we get going, it’s hard to stop us. It really is.”
Kiner-Falefa played a key role in the No. 6 spot, doubling home Marcus Greene from first base with two outs in the third and singling home Greene from second with nobody out in the fifth.
“He’s not only had some good hits, but good at-bats,” Hulett said of Kiner-Falefa's eight games with Spokane. “I like the way he plays defense. He plays with a lot of energy and he likes to win.”
Trevino added a one-out solo shot to left to spark a three-run sixth. Trevino said he had two homers in a game this season for Oral Roberts University at Kansas. He couldn't remember having four RBIs in a game.
“Jose has been swinging a good bat,” Hulett said. “He’s very consistent. Sometimes he gets big and tries to hit every ball out, but for the most part he’s had a lot of good at-bats lately.”
Johnson reached base his first three times and stayed in the game when he collided with the fence in left-center while trying to chase down Ryan McBroom's RBI double in the fourth.
Indians starter Richelson Pena (3-1) worked five solid innings, retiring his final batter to leave Tim Locastro at second base and preserve a 4-3 lead. Jason Hoppe mowed down nine straight Canadians, five by strikeout, while the Indians' offense took control.
“For (Pena) to come out and get through five innings like that and battle was really good,” Hulett said. “Hoppe did a great job. He had one rough outing and one good outing on the road, but he’s really done a nice job.”
Vancouver entered with the league's best team earned-run average (2.95), but that ballooned to 3.20 and allowed Spokane (3.15) to take over the top spot. The Indians also lead the NWL with a team batting average of .275.
Vancouver's speed will test the Indians for the final two games of the series. The Canadians stole one base on Friday to give them a league-best 45. Leadoff hitter Roemon Fields leads the NWL with 18 stolen bases.
“Keep them off base and they won’t be able to use their speed,” Trevino said. “That’s basically how we’re going to do it.”
Spokane is 3-1 against the Canadians this season and 6-1 against teams from the North.