Indians win, get closer in chase for playoff berth
The Spokane Indians bid adieu to the Avista Stadium faithful on Friday night.
Or did they?
On a Friday when everything went right for them, the Spokane Indians completed their Northwest League regular-season home slate with a 7-2 win over the Everett AquaSox before a sold-out crowd of 6,840.
Even before the game started, the Indians knew the Vancouver Canadians had dropped a 5-3 afternoon home game to the Tri-City Dust Devils, improving Spokane’s playoff chances. The evening win over the AquaSox only made matters better.
Spokane and Vancouver are both 37-36 overall with three games to play – for Spokane, a series at Everett, and for Vancouver, a series at Pasco. If Spokane finishes with a better overall record than Vancouver, the Indians will begin the NWL divisional playoffs Tuesday at home against North Division first-half champion Everett.
Spokane (17-18 second half) can also win the North second-half title and a postseason berth with a sweep at Everett (19-16).
“It’s always nice to know that (Vancouver) lost, but we’re still talking about what we can do,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “We need to make sure to take care of our business.”
The Indians handed the ball to 6-foot-4 Kelvin Vasquez, a 20-year-old right-hander with a deceptive 2-2 record. “Deceptive” because Vasquez stands to be the NWL’s earned-run average champion (2.13) after checking Everett on three hits over six innings, striking out eight.
Vasquez held Everett hitless in every inning but the fourth, when Chantz Mack’s first homer scored James Zamarripa for a 2-all tie. After the homer, Vasquez retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
“A young kid going out there in a big game like this, you don’t know what to expect, but he showed a lot of composure tonight,” Hulett said. “He threw a lot of strikes early and really got us into the game.”
“The reason why I can pitch in these games is because I stay so focused throughout my preparation during the week,” Vasquez said through Indians pitching coach Oscar Marin. “Every four days, the one thing I always try to hammer on is to be prepared to go into the game and compete.”
The opportunistic Indians manufactured runs with three sacrifice flies, two RBI groundouts, a suicide squeeze and a single to center against a drawn-in infield. Shortstop Gabe Roa, batting ninth, went 2 for 2 with three RBIs, two on sacrifice flies to center and the other on a fourth-inning suicide squeeze that snapped the 2-all tie.
“We brought out all the bag of tricks tonight, I guess, but we just had the right guys in the right spots tonight and they executed well,” Hulett said.
The Indians set an attendance record with an average of 5,064 per game. The previous mark was 5,053, set in 2008.
The Indians are tied with Vancouver in the overall North Division standings with three games to go. The Indians need a better record than Vancouver to advance to the playoffs unless Spokane sweeps Everett to win the second-half North title outright.