Indians stretch division lead to 7 games
There’s an old adage in baseball that a walk is as good as a hit.
“And when the bases are loaded, it’s also an RBI,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said.
That worked to the Indians’ advantage in the sixth inning of their 8-5 victory over the Vancouver Canadians on Thursday. Eight Spokane batters stepped up to the plate, but none of them put the ball into play.
Five walks (out of Vancouver’s total of 12) and three strikeouts later, the Indians (37-13) had added two more runs to their lead. All the while, as Vancouver (19-31) pitched through the heart of Spokane’s lineup, the possibility of a grand slam loomed.
That’s what the crowd at Avista Stadium wanted – or at least one fan. A ballpark promotion promised to give away a pickup truck if the Indians hit a grand slam.
“It worried their pitcher,” Hulett said. “He wouldn’t throw a ball over the plate.”
The grand slam never happened. Not for the Indians.
The Canadians, however, had other plans. They entered the top of the ninth down 8-0. After four singles scored a run and loaded the bases, Jareck West plowed a grand slam over the right-field wall.
But it wasn’t enough for the comeback. Spokane’s pitching had already put Vancouver in a bad spot.
The Indians are sitting squarely in first place in the league’s East Division. The second-place Boise Hawks (30-20) lost to Salem-Keizer, and Spokane’s lead stretched to seven games.
Neil Ramirez started for Spokane but only pitched two innings because of the Texas Rangers’ mandated development program, Hulett said. So, Wilfredo Boscan took over in the third – and he notched his seventh win of the season with no losses.
“He’s throwing the ball great,” Hulett said of Boscan. “He’s been consistent every time out. Even times he didn’t get decisions, he could have gotten a win in those. I mean, he kept us in every game he’s pitched in.”
Boscan is the Northwest League’s leading pitcher this season in the win column. He allowed three hits in five innings, striking out four and walking none.
Spokane’s pitching was dominant through eight innings. Dustin Brader took the mound in the top of the ninth to close out the game, but after facing two batters and allowing a single, he left injured. Hulett said Brader may have pulled a muscle in his chest.
Clifford Springston came in with a cold arm. He gave up four hits – including the grand slam – and four runs. But he finished off the last two outs and Spokane escaped with the victory.
“We swung the bats well tonight,” Hulett said. “We had timely hitting, ran the bases well tonight.”
The Indians’ signature explosive offense made a reappearance in the bottom of the fifth, after the Canadians had brought in reliever Ryne Tacker.
Tacker entered with a 9.00 ERA. It showed.
David Paisano sparked a two-out rally with a single to right field. Eric Fry walked and Matt West followed up with a double. Mike Bianucci and Dennis Guinn both singled as the Indians collected three runs.
Bianucci finished 2 for 2 with three walks and two RBIs. The left fielder joined the Indians’ roster halfway through the season and immediately started turning heads. His batting average climbed to .302.
He homered in each of his last two games, and is becoming a bigger part of the Indians’ offense. But Bianucci and Hulett both said he’s recently struggled.
“Good hitters get good hits, even when they’re not swinging good,” Hulett said.
“Baseball is set up for failure,” Bianucci said. “I mean, if you fail seven out of 10 times, you’ll end up a .300 career hitter.”
Spokane and Vancouver meet again tonight at 7 at Avista Stadium. Spokane leads the season series 6-1.
The Indians have won five of their last six and nine of their last 12.
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