Because he was making only his third start of the season, Tanner McElroy just wanted to keep the Spokane Indians in the ballgame.
Stealing the show by mowing down Tri-City ended up being an added bonus.
McElroy’s gem led Spokane to a 7-2 win in front of 4,257 fans and pulled the Indians into a first-place tie with the Dust Devils, with both knotted at 34-38. Boise blew a chance to get within a game of first by blowing a six-run ninth inning lead against Yakima. The Hawks are now 32-40, two games back. All three teams have four games remaining.
After allowing a single to the first batter of the game, McElroy retired 11 straight Dust Devils, and finished with 5 2/3 innings of two-hit ball, walking one and striking out 10.
“We really needed to win tonight, this kind of gives us the momentum going into tomorrow,” McElroy said. “Now we’ve got one of our best pitchers on the mound (David Smith).”
A win today would give the Indians a sweep of the three-game series and sole possession of first place.
McElroy was signed as a free agent out of Texas Tech, where he closed and started for the Red Raiders.
He tied up the Dust Devils by getting ahead with a fastball, spotting his changeup and using a hard slider for his out pitch.
“I was throwing three pitches for strikes, which always helps me out,” McElroy said. “I was hoping to give up two runs or less in five or six innings, and it’s not because we can’t score runs. I was just trying to give us a chance.”
Spokane’s offense provided a second straight productive night, scoring seven runs on seven hits, but four of those runs came from batters who reached on Tri-City walks.
The Indians took the lead in the fourth inning when, with two outs, Dust Devils starter Sean Ruthven walked Taylor Teagarden and Freddie Thon. John Mayberry Jr. followed with a slow chopper up the middle just out of the reach of Ruthven and Dust Devils second baseman Pedro Strop for an RBI single.
In the fifth, the Indians extended the lead to 3-0. Joe Kemp walked to lead off the inning, stole second, and after two outs were recorded, Tri-City replaced Ruthven with former Washington State Cougar left-hander James Freeman. This move forced the switch-hitting Terry Blunt to turn around to the right side, and he deposited a 2-2 pitch from Freeman beyond the left-field fence for his fourth homer of the year.
Blunt was playing his second consecutive game at second base. Before this two-game stretch, the last time the outfielder played second was as a freshman at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, over four years ago.