There’s one fail-safe way to shut down your opponent in baseball – the strikeout.
The Spokane Indians pitchers used that method 13 times in their 3-2 Northwest League victory over Salem-Keizer on Wednesday at Avista Stadium.
Leading the charge was reliever Tim Murphy, who struck out seven and gave up two hits in four innings.
“Pounding the zone with strike after strike, he had great command of his fastball,” Spokane (28-8) manager Tim Hulett said. “He’s going to be a big-leaguer someday.”
The Vista, Calif., native got his second win of the season – a rookie year highlighted by a 2.18 ERA and an average 1.1 strikeouts per inning.
Murphy struck out the side in the top of the sixth – the third strikeout, the Indians’ 10th of the night, won one lucky fan $10,000 during a promotion – and added two more in the seventh inning.
“Probably the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here,” Murphy said. “It was probably the best fastball command I’ve had. All three pitches were working.
“Any night that any pitcher has, when they’ve got everything going for them, it’s usually a successful night. And tonight it just ended up that way.”
Murphy had a tough act to follow. Spokane starter Matt Nevarez smoked his way through the first four innings, collecting six strikeouts of his own.
Though Nevarez gave up one run, walked four batters and committed two errors, Murphy said he thought Nevarez had a solid outing. Nevarez worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and settled down after his second-inning throwing error to first base resulted in a Salem-Keizer (17-19) run.
“I think he handled it really well,” Murphy said of Nevarez. “He definitely came out and set the tone early. That’s what you want to do. You’re only as good as your starting pitcher.”
Spokane’s only runs came in the second inning. Jared Bolden, Matt West and Eric Fry loaded the bases on two singles and an error. Then it was time for the new guy.
The new guy, Mike Bianucci, flew into Spokane on Monday night to fill the spot recently vacated by Cody Podraza, who was sent down to the AZL Rangers (the Texas Rangers’ rookie team).
With the bases loaded, Bianucci – an eighth-round draft pick this year from Auburn – smacked a breaking ball off the center field fence. His first professional at-bat. His first pitch. His first hit. His first extra-base hit. His first two RBIs.
“I didn’t try to do too much, but I lined it down to center,” Bianucci said. “I had a good BP today, I was feeling good. And it transferred into the game.”
On the next play, he admitted, he was “a little overanxious” – he got picked off at second base after Doug Hogan hit a hard ball to Volcanoes first-baseman Mike Loberg. But Fry scored on the play, and the pickoff didn’t diminish the impact Bianucci’s RBIs had on the game.
Bianucci went 1 for 3 on the night, striking out in the fourth inning and getting robbed of another hit when Salem-Keizer shortstop Vladimir Frias jumped up and snagged a line-drive out of the air.
“He took some pretty good swings. I like his approach, he’s got a good idea,” Hulett said of Bianucci. “It’s great to come out and see: big situation, first at-bat, hit a double, get some runs for us. That was huge.”
Spokane OF Tim Rodriguez was promoted to the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze of the California League. … Wilfredo Boscan, Tuesday’s starting pitcher who left the game injured with a rolled ankle after facing four batters, was walking fine Wednesday and should not miss a start, Hulett said.