Tuesday’s Spokane Indians game resembled a sports blooper reel more closely than it did a contest between two teams in the hunt for a Northwest League baseball title.
Plagued by defensive errors and a drought at the plate, Spokane (20-27) was overrun 14-4 by the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (38-10) in the final game of the series at Avista Stadium. S-K won the series 4-1.
With the infielders scrambling around to chase after wild throws, missed catches or wild pitches, the Indians gave up six runs and committed three errors in the first three innings.
“The key to winning games is defense,” said Indians pitching coach Hector Ortiz. “And the first couple of innings, we just didn’t play good defense.”
Ortiz managed the game in the absence of manager Tim Hulett, who was hit in the nose by a stray ball while he was pitching batting practice earlier that afternoon.
We had a slow start,” Ortiz said. “Yes, they have a good team, but we have a team that can compete with them and we just didn’t do it today.”
Jose Flores led the Volcanoes’ charge, finishing 2 for 5 with five runs batted in.
Spokane’s Jacob Brigham (4-3) took the loss. Brigham gave up nine runs in 4 2/3 innings. Only five of the nine runs were earned, with the rest coming off defensive errors.
The Indians never came close to finding an offensive rhythm. They were outhit by the Volcanoes 18-6, and failed to get a man on base until the bottom of the third, when third baseman Kenny Smith singled to left field.
In the fifth inning, Smith’s two-run homer accounted for half the Indians’ total offense.
Earlier that inning, designated hitter Ian Gac hit his fourth homer in four games. Gac connected on the first pitch and sent the ball streaking high into the sky over left field.
Gac leads the NWL with 12 homers.
The Indians’ final run came from center fielder Luke Salas, who arrived at the ballpark from Arizona less than two hours before game time. Salas began the season with the Indians but was sent down to the Arizona Rookie League in July.
“I had no clue I was going to start today,” Salas said. “My manager in Arizona told me they were playing a day game up here and that I probably wasn’t going to be playing. But then I came to the field and they told me I was in the lineup.”
Salas rewarded the move with a triple in the eighth that turned into a run when the Volcanoes’ third baseman bobbled the ball, allowing Salas to scramble home.
“I got my at-bats in down there in Arizona, got a chance to be myself and play the game,” Salas said. “I knew ultimately I’d get back up here. My focus was on keeping a positive attitude and to keep working.”
The Indians play Eugene in a five-game road series that begins today.