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Indians hit skid

MONDAY, AUG. 11, 2008

NWL-leading Spokane loses third straight

When you think about it, a three-game losing streak isn’t the end of the world. Not by any means.

But the Spokane Indians, the Northwest League’s winningest team, hit that mark with a 7-2 defeat to Vancouver on Sunday.

Three losses in a row – for the first time this season. A dropped series, 3-2, to Vancouver (22-31), the last-place team in the Northwest League’s West Division.

Perhaps the Indians (37-16, first place in the East Division) aren’t as superhuman as they seemed at the beginning of the year?

“They’re a good team. You know, everybody’s about the same in this league,” Vancouver starting pitcher Michael Hart said. “They hit the ball hard. They’ve got some big, strong guys on their team.

“But, I mean, they’re nothing special. They’re nothing to be scared about.”

Of course, that’s coming from the guy who shut down the Indians offense Sunday. He threw eight strikeouts in four innings, allowing just two hits. Though he didn’t get the official win, he certainly did anecdotally.

Ask Joey Butler, Spokane’s star hitter (.327 average), what happened in the Indians’ meltdown.

“It’s tough to say what was giving us trouble,” said Butler, who went 1 for 4 at the plate. “They just had good pitching, I guess.”

Ask Tim Hulett, the Indians manager, how Hart shut down Spokane’s bats.

“He threw a lot of breaking balls,” Hulett said. “We didn’t adjust to the (strike) zone. It was low and away, and he was throwing it there. And just kept throwing it there.”

Now with three starts and 25 innings pitched, Hart reduced his ERA to 1.08. And, he said, he’s done it by relying on his slider.

But if strong pitching lifted up the Canadians, poor pitching further sank the Indians. Richard Bleier, who earned his fifth loss in as many starts, delivered a disappointing performance from the beginning for the 4,042 fans at Avista Stadium.

The only good news for the Indians on Sunday was that their East Division contender, Boise, lost to Salem-Keizer and remained six games behind first-place Spokane.

But now it’s crunch time. Spokane travels to Boise (31-22) for a three-game series starting tonight. It’ll be the first time the two teams have faced each other this season, and the first of four Spokane-Boise series in the next four weeks.

In this past round against Salem-Keizer, the Hawks struggled, losing the series 4-1.

“I think the energy level will be a lot better going into Boise, knowing that Boise’s right behind us,” Hulett said.

Nick Eaton can be reached at 509-459-5445 or


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