Shaving cream was the ingredient du jour in Jake Kaase’s postgame pie.
“I was hoping it was whipped cream, but it’s got a bit of a taste to it,” he said, wiping the foam out of his eyes and hair. He smelled fresh and clean – yep, shaving cream.
Kaase’s Spokane teammates had sneaked up behind him and plastered the paper plate to his face. But Kaase couldn’t have been happier – the pro baseball tradition means he hit a home run to win the game for the Indians.
With his team trailing by one in the bottom of the seventh, Kaase smacked a three-run shot over the right-field wall. That gave the Indians the boost they needed to beat the Tri-City Dust Devils 5-3 on Wednesday at Avista Stadium.
“I went up to the plate right there, just trying to find something to hit hard,” Kaase said. “And he threw it in the wrong spot and I took advantage of his mistake.”
That would be J.R. Murphy’s mistake. The Tri-City reliever blew a save and got the loss, which put the Dust Devils’ record at 34-35 and Spokane’s at 46-23.
With Boise’s win over Yakima, the Indians kept their Northwest League East Division lead at six games, with seven left in the regular season. Spokane’s magic number to clinch the division dropped to two.
But with the division pennant nearly in their hands, the Indians are hurting a little. Second baseman Jason Ogata is out for the rest of the season with a broken finger.
Pitcher Richard Bleier, who started Wednesday’s game, is coming off a shoulder injury. So is pitcher Neil Ramirez. Center fielder David Paisano has an ongoing leg injury that sometimes flares up.
So the Indians are glad that Kaase, who has jumped around the different levels of the Texas Rangers’ minor league regime this season, is back in Spokane. The .347-hitting shortstop provides some relief on offense and defense.
“When guys went down and hurt, and then we got Kaase, that was good,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He hadn’t been playing much. So he’s really done a good job for a guy who I think was in Bakersfield just kind of being the utility guy, not playing a lot.
“So for him to come here right away and swing the bat has been good. We like it.”
Kaase started out the season with the Bakersfield (Calif.) Blaze, who are two steps above Spokane in the Rangers’ system, and also spent some time with the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings, one step above. When the Indians started their season, Kaase was on their roster. He moved up to Bakersfield again for a few weeks, then returned to Spokane earlier this month.
“I really never wanted to leave,” he said. “Once I knew I was going to get my shot to play every day, I knew it was going to be a good year. Be a good shot to meet some new guys, put a team together and have some fun.”
Since returning, Kaase’s bat has been on fire. He’s had at least one hit in 10 of his last 11 games, including his 2-for-4, three-RBI night Wednesday.
His long ball isn’t the main threat to opposing teams. Kaase can be deadly with the bunt, and he’s just an all-around smart batter, Hulett said.
It was Kaase’s home run – his second with the Indians – that did it this time.
“It’s really a pretty typical win,” Hulett said. “We don’t score early, we score late – get a big hit late in the game by Kaase to give us a lead. So, it was a good game.”
Returning to the starting rotation was Bleier, who gave up four hits and struck out four in five innings but didn’t get a decision.
“It’s definitely good to get back out there and have a good outing,” Bleier said. “I feel like it was just one good outing away from getting back on track.”
The Indians’ first two runs came in the fifth inning, when Jared Bolden brought in Matt West and Zach Zaneski – who both singled – with a single through the gap into left.
Spokane is 7-4 against the Dust Devils this season and plays its final game against T-C tonight. The Indians’ final six games are against Boise.