The Spokane Indians shook off what seemed like five innings of complete offensive indifference Saturday night at Avista Stadium and powered their way past the Eugene Emeralds 10-7 in the finale of a five-game series between the Northwest League rivals.
A standing-room-only crowd of 7,088 braved the midsummer heat to watch the Indians rough up Eugene’s bullpen for eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to erase 4-1 deficit and spoil a remarkable performance by Emerald starter Jerry Sullivan, who struck out 12 batters and allowed only two hits and a run in his five innings.
Three relievers tried to stem Spokane’s sixth-inning storm.
By the time Gary Poynter fanned Tommy Mendonca for the final out, there was little left for Eugene to do but assess the damages after losing for a fourth time in the series and turning the Indians loose on their first three-game winning streak of the season.
“It’s great to come back and have a big inning like that,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “But their first guy (Sullivan) was really good. He mixed up his pitches really well and had a good slider – probably the best we’ve seen all year – and he pounded away with it.
“We struggled against him, but the one thing we didn’t do was swing at a lot of early pitches, so he was out of there after five innings because of how many he had thrown.”
Spokane sent 12 batters to the plate in the decisive sixth, and pounded out six hits – two of which came off the bat of Jason Ogata, who capped the scoring with a two-run single. But the Indians also benefited from three walks and two Eugene errors, including an errant throw to home by third baseman Edinson Rincon that allowed two runs to score.
Only four of Spokane’s eight runs were earned, but that didn’t seem to bother Hulett.
“We’ll take all eight,” he said.
Ogata, who was a regular for the Indians last year, finished the game with three singles and three RBIs, raising his average to .433 in the 17 games he has played since being sent back to Spokane from the Texas Rangers’ affiliate in Hickory, N.C.
“He had a bad game tonight,” Hulett said, jokingly, of Ogata. “He didn’t hit anything real hard. He bounced one (single) through there and got jammed on another, but when you’re swinging it good, you get those kinds of hits.
“And he’s been hot. He’s been getting two or three a game, and when you’ve got a guy like that in the middle of your lineup, it really helps.”
The Emeralds touched Spokane starter Matt Thompson for an early run when Vince Benome led off the second inning with a solo home run over the right-field fence.
They chased him in the fifth when Griffin Benedict singled to right, stole second and scored on Emmanuel Quiles’ two-run home run to left.
But the Indians bullpen – unlike Eugene’s – did nearly everything that was asked of it, with Samuel Brown (1-1), the first of Spokane’s two relievers, picking up the win.
The Indians got their final run in the eighth on an RBI single to left field by Miguel Velazquez and then withstood a three-run rally by the Emeralds in the top of the ninth.
The Indians get a half-day off today before traveling to Keizer, Ore., for Monday night’s start of a five-games series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Spokane’s next home game is Aug. 11, also against Salem-Keizer.