What separates the Spokane Indians from the Vancouver Canadians so far this season isn't their records. Both teams are 27-17 overall in the Northwest League, better than the league's other six teams. But Spokane is guaranteed a postseason berth because it defeated North Division rival Vancouver four out of six times during the first half of league season, when both teams finished 25-13. Make that five out of seven times after Spokane defeated Vancouver 4-2 on Sunday night to open a three-game series at Avista Stadium. Read story
Vancouver has won the last three NWL championships and remains a favorite to secure the North's other postseason bid. If Spokane adds the second-half title to the first-half title it clinched last week, Vancouver is all but guaranteed to advance to the playoffs as the team with the next-best overall record.
"They played so well down the stretch there (in the first half) and really forced us down to the last game," Indians manager Tim Hulett said. ... "They’ve got a really good team. They have all the pieces and (Max) Pentecost, the catcher, adds another bat in the middle of their lineup. They’re going to be tough the second half."
Pentecost was selected in the first round of last month's Major League Draft. He made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League three weeks ago and hadn't played against Spokane this season. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Sunday.
The pitching matchup of Spokane's Reed Garrett and Vancouver's Zakery Wasilewski was a repeat of a July 6 game won by Spokane 9-3. Garrett pitched six effective innings in that game and earned the victory. Wasilewski allowed nine hits and seven runs in three innings and was tagged with the loss.
The Indians again jumped on Wasilewski, knocking him out after one-third of an inning. Wasilewski only allowed one hit, a bloop RBI single by Juremi Profar, but he walked four and was charged with four runs, three of them earned.
"We put up some good at-bats early and scored four runs, but after that we didn’t get much off their (four) relievers," Hulett said. "We had a different guy each inning, it seemed. We had just a couple of opportunities, but we didn’t hit situationally very good tonight. We had a couple of opportunities where all we had to do was put the ball in play and we didn’t even do that."
The Indians stranded runners on second base in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings. They also couldn't drive home new Indians outfielder Pepe Cardona after his one-out triple to right-center in the eighth.
Indians starter Reed Garrett (4-1) exited with a 4-1 lead after five innings. He struck out six and walked two while lowering his ERA to 4.60. He received a boost in the Canadians' one-run third when catcher Marcus Greene threw out league stolen bases leader Roemon Fields at second base after Fields' one-out RBI single.
"He had that one inning (the third) where he threw a lot of pitches, trying to stay out of trouble, and of course Greeney did a great job throwing out the guys who’s leading the league in stolen bases, which is a big play," Hulett said. "(Garrett) pitched well, outside the one inning. Outside of that, he was nails tonight."
As was reliever Shane McCain, whose season continues to roll along with excellent numbers. The nondrafted free agent from Troy (Alabama) University polished off the win with two scoreless innings, dropping his ERA to 0.48.
The Indians and Canadians will play five more times this season. Spokane ends its regular season at Vancouver from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. The Indians have elected to play Game 1 of the best-of-three divisional series on the road, so they may end up staying in Vancouver for the Sept. 2 opener.
Unless Everett and Tri-City have a say in the matter, that is. Everett currently leads the second half with a 4-2 record.