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Indians-Canadians rubber game looms as vital

The Northwest League will take its first day off on Monday after 24 consecutive days of baseball. When play picks up on Tuesday, there will be 14 games left in the first half of the season. Following Sunday's afternoon game with the Vancouver Canadians — the finale of a three-game series at Avista Stadium — the Spokane Indians will hold either a three-game lead over Vancouver in the North Division or a one-game lead. Vancouver (14-9) put the pressure on the Indians (16-7) by winning Saturday's middle game 5-1. Read story

The Canadians realize that now is the time to make their move if they want to take the first-half title (and automatic playoff spot) away from the Indians. Spokane's schedule for the two weeks heading to the halftime mark appears favorable: six games against Tri-City, which is 10-13 and hasn't played the Indians this season; five games against Boise, which is 11-12 and 1-4 against Spokane; and three games against Everett, which is 5-18 and 0-3 against Spokane.

“Of course, they’re in first place, so we looked to come up here and get as many games as we can, because they’re a good ball club,” said Vancouver left fielder Jonathan Davis, whose two-run homer in the second inning Saturday put Spokane on its heels.

Vancouver is 2-3 against the Indians this season, with both wins going to Saturday's starter, Miguel Castro. Castro's combined numbers against the Indians are impressive: 11 innings, six hits, no earned runs, nine strikeouts and two walks.

“You have to tip your cap to the other guy,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said of Castro. “Their guy was pretty good tonight. He had a good slider that he used early in counts, but he was also throwing hard. … He also used his change-up.”

Indians starter Derek Thompson struck out six in five innings, including four consecutive batters starting with the top of the fourth, but he fell into trouble with two outs in the second. Tim Locastro singled to left field before Davis' homer to short right field.

“That pitch was a change-up, up and away,” Davis said. … “I told myself just to sit back and let the ball travel and explode and hit it. I caught it right and it got out for me. … Me and the guys had been talking about (the short porch) and we said, 'Don’t think about it. Just let it happen.' ”

Hulett said the pitch was a fastball up, but either way, it went out and put Vancouver ahead for good.

“That short porch was there for us, too, and we didn't take advantage of it,” Hulett said.

Spokane and Vancouver are running 1-2 in league attendance. Davis said Vancouver fans are “crazy” and make for a great atmosphere at the park. He heard a similar comment from Indians outfielder Doug Votolato, who played with Davis at Central Arkansas.

Thompson (1-4) has more losses than every other Indians pitcher combined.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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