Matt West was mad.
The Spokane third baseman was at the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday during the Spokane Indians’ 8-3 win over the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium.
Vancouver reliever Hector Garcia’s fastball flew behind West’s back. So did the next pitch.
His third pitch hit West squarely in the shoulder.
The Indians’ bench cleared.
The Canadians’ bench cleared.
Eric Fry held back West. No punches were thrown. Nobody was tossed out of the game – not even Garcia. Indians manager Tim Hulett gave home-plate umpire Brett Terry an earful.
“That was as intentional as it gets,” Hulett said of Garcia’s plunking of West. “I was just trying to get (Terry) to recognize that before things escalated.”
But everything soon settled down for a little bit. West went to first base and Mike Bianucci quickly struck out, retiring the side. With reliever Tim Murphy on the mound, Vancouver’s Jason Christian came up to the plate.
Murphy’s first pitch was a two-seam fastball up and in. Terry’s fist pumped and Murphy was gone.
The Indians’ infield collapsed toward home plate. Murphy yelled his complaints, as did West. So did Hulett, who also was quickly ejected.
“I wasn’t trying to throw at him or anything like that. It was supposed to be a fastball down and away,” Murphy said later from inside the Indians’ clubhouse. “But we’d been warned.”
The whole debacle threatened Spokane’s victory.
The Canadians, 19-30 and last place in the Northwest League’s West Division, fought back in the top of the sixth. Momentum shifted.
They scored three runs on Spokane reliever Justin Gutsie’s cold arm, closing the score to 5-3.
“It took him a little bit to settle down,” Hulett said of Gutsie. “I mean, when your clear benches, the adrenaline goes sky high on you.”
But the Indians (36-13) wouldn’t have it. In the bottom of the inning, Jason Ogata swatted a single up the middle to bring in two runs, ensuring the win for the East Division leaders.
Each team had nine hits. Fry went 2 for 4. For Vancouver, Rodney Rutherford – who went into the game hitting .149 and left batting .167 – went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
The Boise Hawks lost 16-6 to Salem-Keizer, so Spokane’s lead over Boise was extended to six games.
The Indians and Canadians play the second game of the five-game set at 6:30 tonight. Spokane is 5-1 against Vancouver this season.
It was a tough night for umpire Terry. In the top of the seventh, he got tagged by a foul ball and went down for a few minutes. Both teams’ trainers cleared the benches to assist. The restless crowd cheered. … Bianucci’s second-inning solo homer was his second in as many nights. He has two this season. Teammate Doug Hogan’s eighth-inning solo long ball was his fourth of the season. … A warm rain fell in the top of the eighth inning, at 9:30 p.m. The temperature was still in the upper 80s.