The Spokane Indians were close. But close isn’t good enough.
The Indians hit two balls hard in the bottom of the 10th inning – both of which fell comfortably into Salem-Keizer gloves – and the Volcanoes held on for a 1-0 Northwest League victory Thursday night at Avista Stadium.
Mike Bianucci led off the 10th inning with a rocket toward left field that was snagged by Salem-Keizer third-baseman Jose Flores. Then, after a Dennis Guinn grounded out, Doug Hogan blasted a rocket to the right-field wall, only to watch it fall into the mitt of Francisco Peguero, ending the game.
“(Bianucci) smoked that last ball,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “That was probably one of the hardest balls hit all year. I mean, it was hit-and-caught, about that quick.”
The Indians (28-9) got just three hits – all singles – and only twice had runners in scoring position.
Spokane lost the game but won the series with Salem-Keizer 3-2. But the homestand hinted at a weakness in the Indians’ offense – an offense that had been dominating the Northwest League until recently.
The weakness? Salem-Keizer.
Hulett said the series came down to how the Indians matched up with the Volcanoes (18-19).
“Every team’s different,” he said. “It just depends on the team and what’s going on at the time.”
The Salem-Keizer pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and walked two batters.
The Volcanoes starter, Scott Barnes, did his part in four innings. Hulett said he had a “funky arm angle” and had some untraditional motion in his delivery. The Indians couldn’t really convert.
It was that kind of game. Zeroes lit up the scoreboard inning after inning.
Until the top of the 10th, when Indians reliever Juan Peralta took over. He walked Trent Kline, then allowed him to get to second on a sacrifice bunt. Kline moved to third on a Skylar Stromsmoe single.
Ryan Lormand tried to knock down a bunt for the suicide squeeze, but he missed the pitch and Spokane caught Kline halfway between third base and home plate.
In the end, it didn’t matter. On the next pitch, Lormand doubled to left field and drove in Stromsmoe for the go-ahead run. Spokane had no answer in the bottom of the inning.
“It’s a well-played game,” Hulett said. “Sometimes you just tip your cap and you just get beat. Tonight was one of those nights; we just got beat.”
Spokane starter Martin Perez, who has gotten one decision – a loss – in seven starts, threw five virtually flawless innings. He struck out five and allowed two hits.
The 17-year-old Venezuelan kept the Volcanoes out of the picture, but his Texas Rangers-mandated pitch-count limit kept him from going any longer.
“It feels good that I pitched well, but I’m a little disappointed that we lost,” Perez said through an interpreter. “The other team put some things together in the end and took away the victory.”
The Indians head to Everett today to take on the AquaSox in a five-game series. The Indians will be back home next Thursday.