The Spokane Indians remained in first place in the Northwest League's North Division for the entire first half. Technically speaking, Vancouver sneaked ahead of Spokane by one-half game for 6 hours on Monday by defeating Tri-City in an afternoon game. But the Indians, knowing they had to beat Everett at night to keep Vancouver from winning the title, got the job done with great pitching by Derek Thompson and Shane McCain, solid defense and just enough timely hitting. Read story
The Indians knew they had to set aside the agonizing loss from Sunday, when Spokane was one strike away from clinching the postseason berth before Everett's Corey Simpson hit a two-run homer in the ninth against Johnny Fasola.
Fasola said before Monday's game that the best way to handle the loss was to close the door on it and chalk it up to what happens in baseball from time to time.
"We were a little down (after Sunday), but we just had to forget about it and say, 'Tomorrow’s a new day,' " echoed Monday's starter, Derek Thompson.
Through five starts this season, Thompson was 1-4 with an earned-run average of 5.25. He's 2-0 since, with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 18 innings while lowering his ERA to 3.64.
"Derek had a great outing tonight," Indians manager Tim Hulett said. "He worked ahead of hitters all night. He pitched to both sides of the plate. I think he discovered that the last time out. He started pitching in a lot more and that made his change-up more effective."
Thompson faced two challenges. In the third inning, an infield error and infield single put two AquaSox on base with two outs, but designated hitter Adam Martin flew out to center field. Thompson opened the fifth with two walks on eight consecutive balls. Indians coach Jose Jaimes visited the mound and Thompson retired the next three batters, the last two on strikeouts.
"(Jose) told me just to calm down, take a deep breath and throw a strike," Thompson said.
Shane McCain worked the final two innings, allowing one hit while striking out two. He earned his second save and dropped his ERA to 0.54.
Summing up the first half, Spokane dominated North teams, with 5-1 records against Everett and Tri-City and 4-2 against Vancouver. The Indians were so-so against the South (11-9) after starting 10-3 against that division.
Spokane is finished in the regular season with Eugene (6-4) and Boise (5-5) and has yet to play Salem-Keizer and first-half champion Hillsboro. The Indians begin at five-game series Tuesday night in Keizer against the Volcanoes.
When the Indians won the first-half title in 2010, some didn't find it humorous when the next day's newspaper story said the Indians could lose their final 38 games and still make the playoffs. The statement was true, but the Indians didn't think that way in 2010 and won't think like that now.
"We still want to win," Thompson said. "We want to prove that we didn’t just get off to a good start. We want to keep going in the second half and win that as well."