If their first game were any indication, the Spokane Indians could be a bit different this season than last. Apparently, they can hit.
Justin Pickett’s three-run home run in the fourth inning helped propel the Indians to a 15-3 victory over the Everett AquaSox on Tuesday. But it was just one of the many plays that pleased a crowd of 6,851 that came to watch the Indians’ season opener at Avista Stadium.
“I think it’s real indicative to what we might have this year,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “It’s good to see.”
Down 4-3 and threatening in the fourth inning, Everett gave up six runs to solidify the win for Spokane.
Eric Fry, back for his second year with the Indians, started off the inning with a double to right field and Tim Rodriguez loaded the bases on pitcher Doug Salinas’ second walk. Then Donnie Ecker, who won the Indians’ unofficial home-run derby on Saturday, belted a double to left field to score two.
When Pickett homered with Ecker and Jared Bolden on base, reliever Eddy Fernandez gave up his sixth run on the night.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Indians tacked on their last two runs off two hits and an error at second base. Everett committed three errors.
“They didn’t really play that bad early, just once the game got out of hand they got sloppy,” Hulett said.
But the evening didn’t start so smoothly for the Indians.
Starting on the mound was Neil Ramirez, playing the first professional game of his career after getting drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round last year. All eyes were on him as he walked his first batter.
Then he struck out two in a row, and whiffed two more on the night. But his performance was marred by four balks, one of which scored Everett’s second run. He also walked four and gave up a run on a wild pitch.
Hulett pulled the 19-year-old after three innings.
“First time I pitched in front of a real big crowd like this, (I was) a little bit nervous,” said Ramirez. “But I think I got the bugs out in this outing, so I think I’ll be good from here on out.”
“Obviously, he would have liked to have been locked in early, but it was a good third inning,” Hulett said. “That’s what I like about it. I hope he takes that from it.”
Meanwhile, the Indians’ offense was doing its share. In the first inning, taking advantage of a flustered Everett infield (an error by first baseman Manelik Pimentel scored one), the Indians put four runs on the board.
Everett, which finished with no RBIs, could only chip away at the Indians’ lead by exploiting their mistakes.
There were Ramirez’s follies. Reliever Wilfredo Boscan also committed a balk. When Everett’s Tyson Gillies hit an infield single in the top of the fourth, Wellington Dotel came around the bases to score as Spokane catcher Doug Hogan watched the play at first.
Hulett attributed the mistake to learning a new style of play.
“College does things a little bit different,” he said. “We’ll have a few of those early on, but for the most part we’ll get it straight.”
Still, the early-inning jitters were overshadowed by the Indians’ big bats. Three times, Spokane had the bases loaded with no outs, and each time returned to the dugout with at least two more runs. The Indians finished with 13 hits to Everett’s five.
“This is a 15-3 win, but it only counts as one in the column,” Hulett said. “So tomorrow’s a new day, new pitcher, it’ll be a completely different deal. We want to come in every day, if we win 2-1, great, if we win 15-3, great.”
The Indians and the AquaSox rematch at 6:30 tonight is the second game of this five-game series at Avista Stadium.