The Spokane Indians have a way of getting under the skin of opposing pitchers.
Maybe there’s an intimidation factor – the Indians are the best hitting team in the Northwest League.
Maybe it’s perseverance – manager Tim Hulett stresses the importance of answering back if an opponent scores.
“We have a great approach right now,” said Jared Bolden, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs in Spokane’s 8-2 victory over the Yakima Bears at Avista Stadium on Monday night.
“Everybody’s going up there, no one’s trying more than what they can do,” he said. “We all believe that if I don’t get the job done, the guy behind me’s going to get the job done, the guy behind him’s going to get the job done.”
And that helps the Indians’ batters stay patient at the plate, wait for the best pitch they get, Bolden said. Which, of course, helps the Indians (21-6) frustrate opposing pitchers.
The Indians smacked 11 hits and forced four fielding errors by the Bears (11-16). Two of Spokane’s runs came on wild pitches. Yakima’s four pitchers combined for six walks, and Indians third baseman Matt West got beaned twice.
Additionally, West went 1 for 2, drew an additional walk, and scored twice.
“People hate playing us,” West said. “Other teams have already said that they hate playing us.”
Spokane’s team batting average is .282 through Monday’s game. They have nine players hitting better than .250, including weapons Joey Butler (.386) and Eric Fry (.293).
It’s not just the hitting – the Indians are also the league’s best pitching team, with a combined 2.80 ERA.
Matt Nevarez, who took the mound Monday in the fifth inning to relieve starter Martin Perez, pitched three innings and allowed no earned runs. He started the outing a bit shaky, yielding two walks and a bunt single to load the bases with two outs, but struck out one and forced a double play to escape the jam.
Hulett said Spokane needed Nevarez to “eat up some innings.”
But biggest in Hulett’s mind was Spokane’s ability to answer opponents.
The Indians got a scare in the top of the first when Ariel Urena, Yakima’s second-spot batter, cracked a home run to left field. But Spokane answered against knuckleballer Houston Summers, scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Bears scored just one more run, in the seventh inning. Spokane came right back again, bringing one home in the bottom of the seventh and finishing the scoring with a two-out, three-run rally in the eighth.
The victory was the Indians’ eighth in a row at home. They are high atop the Northwest League, five games ahead of Tri-City (16-11).