August 23, 2008 in Sports

Loss cuts Indians’ lead to six

By The Spokesman-Review
 
HAWKS6
INDIANS3
Tonight: Spokane at Tri-City, 7:15 Radio: 1050-AM

The Spokane Indians have had a change of pace late in the season. They’ve lost four of their past six series, having not lost a single series before then.

With Friday night’s 6-3 loss to Boise, the Indians – in first place in the Northwest League’s East Division – have lost both of their series against the Hawks, who are six games back in second place.

Asked if he were worried about Boise (37-27), Spokane manager Tim Hulett scoffed.

“We’ve been six games up for a long time,” he said. “We haven’t played well at times, they haven’t played well at times. They haven’t closed the gap as much as they could have.

“They’re the guys that are in the chase. We’re the guys that are in the lead.”

But the Indians (43-21), who started off the season on a 28-6 run, are slipping. They’ve lost eight of their last 14 games and are 2-4 against Boise.

Then again, the Indians posted a pair of routs – 15-4 and 13-3 – against West Division leader Salem-Keizer last week in Oregon, winning the five-game series 4-1.

But Friday, a sold-out Avista Stadium crowd watched the Indians pick up just three hits while allowing Boise 11.

“I don’t think we had much intensity tonight,” said Mike Bianucci, who gave the Indians their three runs with a homer in the bottom of the seventh. “They jumped on us right from the beginning, scored three runs in three innings. And we were playing catch-up the rest of the game and we never could get back into it.”

Boise got their first two in the second inning, when Kyler Burke hit a two-run homer over the right-field wall. In the third, Drew Rundle hit a double down the first-base line, then slid safely home on a fielder’s choice when Josh Vitters hit a slow grounder to first.

Starting pitcher Carlos Pimentel (5-3), who gave up three hits and three runs in five innings, got the loss. Reliever Richard Bleier, who was a starter before he started struggling himself, surrendered five hits and two runs.

“We didn’t pitch well tonight early on,” Hulett said. “We just got behind the hitters a lot, and they got hits.

“And then, you know, we didn’t swing the bats very well.”

Only Bianucci, Matt West and David Paisano got hits for the Indians.

That’s a far cry from earlier in the season, when Spokane was leading the league in hitting. Now Boise has a team average of .288 to Spokane’s .272.

Spokane has six more games against Boise. That’s half of the Indians’ remaining games.

The other six are coming up. Spokane starts a three-game series on the road tonight against Tri-City (31-32), then returns home Tuesday for three more against the Dust Devils.

The Indians are back in Boise on Friday for three games, then close out the regular season with three back at home against the Hawks.

Nick Eaton can be reached at 509-459-5445 or nicke@spokesman.com.

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