Indians’ bats sink Eugene
Two-out rallies have an inherent excitement to them.
So do no-out rallies and one-out rallies.
The Spokane Indians had a taste of each kind in their 13-3 Northwest League victory over the Eugene Emeralds on Saturday at Avista Stadium. They did it by pressuring the opposing pitchers and capitalizing on their mistakes.
Those mistakes – five walks and three hit batters – led to eight of Spokane’s runs.
“I think they know we can hit. I think the league knows we can hit,” said Tim Rodriguez, who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. “That in itself creates some fear, creates some tension. And we come out, and we know we can hit and we’re very confident.”
Spokane, locked in a 2-all game, took control in the bottom of the fifth against Emeralds reliever Pascual Juan.
After quickly retiring the first two Indians players he faced, Juan walked the next two. Matt West’s single gave Spokane (14-5) a 3-2 lead. When Juan hit the next batter, Eric Fry, in the back, that was the last straw.
Eugene (7-13) manager Greg Riddoch yanked Juan and put in side-armer Tyler Davis. The Indians’ beating continued, however, as Rodriguez and Dennis Guinn smacked consecutive singles, bringing in three more runs for a 6-2 edge.
“We’re putting (pressure) on a lot of people right now, when you’re swinging the bats good,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “We’re not just swinging it in a couple of spots. We’re swinging it one through nine pretty good.”
Guinn, batting in the No. 7 spot, went 3 for 4 with a double and a triple. Zach Zaneski and David Paisano were the only Indians without a hit, but each scored a run.
The fifth inning wasn’t the worst of it for the Emeralds. The Indians sealed the deal in the bottom of the seventh, scoring six runs for a 12-2 advantage.
Eugene reliever Matt Means who came into the inning with a 12.60 ERA and left with a 17.47 ERA, hit West to start off the inning. Two singles (Fry and Rodriguez), an error by shortstop Jeudy Valdez on Rodriguez’s single, and two walks later, Means was out and reliever Cooper Brannan was in.
With two outs, the Indians kept going. Brannan hit his first batter, Paisano. Jason Ogata smacked a single to left field for two RBIs.
Then it was time for Joey Butler to show why he is the league’s leading hitter. He clobbered a stand-up double to right, bringing in the Indians’ 11th and 12th runs.
Butler’s batting average climbed from .449 at the beginning of the game to .453 by the end.
“I think, as a whole, we were seeing the ball well,” Butler said. “We have a pretty good record going, so we’re confident going into the game. We’re not letting it slip away.”
Eugene’s only threat came in the top of the fifth. Valdez beat out West’s throw from third for a single, then three consecutive Emeralds hit line drives through the gap into right field. Two scored in the inning.
By the time the Emeralds got their third run, in the top of the eighth, it essentially was all for naught.
Spokane didn’t need the 13th run in the eighth inning. With one out, Guinn tripled to right field and brought in Rodriguez, who had singled.
Matt Nevarez (1-1) earned the win, pitching three shutout innings in relief of starter Carlos Pimentel.
Spokane sits alone atop of the NWL East Division, two games ahead of the Tri-City Dust Devils.
“We feel like if you step onto the field with us, we’re going to win and you’re not going to win,” Rodriguez said. “It’s almost like invincibility, but not really. We’re very aware of our weaknesses and we work on them every day.
“But for the most part we’re here to beat you, and we know we can beat you.”