Indians’ bats doze in loss to Vancouver

SUNDAY, JULY 5, 2009

The Spokane Indians came into Saturday night’s short-season Class A baseball matchup against the Vancouver Canadians hitting .232 – the lowest average of any team in the Northwest League.

It’s unlikely the Indians will dress up that number any time soon if they don’t start swinging the bats any better than they did during their 5-3 loss to the Canadians at Avista Stadium.

Spokane (5-10) managed only four hits – all in the eighth inning – off three Vancouver pitchers in dropping the opening game of a five-game series in front of a sellout Independence Day crowd of 6,829, most of whom stayed around for the postgame fireworks display.

“We just got back from Yakima where we hit the ball about as well as we have all year,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said regarding his team’s struggles at the plate. “I’m not sure what it is, but it could be that they just had our number tonight.”

Vancouver starter Chad Lee (2-0), a fourth-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s, was sensational in earning the victory. The strapping 6-foot-4 right-hander went six innings without giving up a hit. He struck out five and allowed only two baserunners, both of whom reached on second-inning walks.

“That first guy of theirs was really tough,” Hulett said of Lee, who came into the game having allowed no runs and only one hit in nine previous innings. “He moved the ball around really well and had a nasty hook.

“We just couldn’t figure him out.”

Nathan Long took over for Lee and breezed through the seventh inning. He was lifted with one out in the eighth when Spokane managed to push across its only runs of the game on four hits – two of which never left the infield.

Miguel Velazquez, playing in his first game with the Indians, opened the bottom of the eighth with a first-pitch single to left to break up the no-hitter. Following a Clark Murphy strikeout, Chris Dove singled to center and Denny Duron followed with an infield hit that scored Velazquez.

Joe Bonadonna then reached after dropping a perfect bunt down the third-base line. He was forced at second on Cody Podraza’s run-scoring fielder’s choice before an error scored Duron.

Vancouver backed it strong pitching with a five-run eruption on Indians reliever Johnny Gunter in the top of the seventh. Wilfredo Sosa and Michael Gilmartin each contributed two-run doubles to the Canadians’ big inning, which broke open a scoreless game and ruined an impressive outing by Spokane’s Braden Tullis, who made his first start of the season.

Tullis effectively controlled the Canadians by allowing four hits through five shutout innings that included nine strikeouts.

Roster moves

Infielder Shon Landry had decided to give up baseball because of a nagging shoulder injury that will require surgery. … Infielder Bonadonna, a 43rd-round pick in his year’s draft, has been promoted from the Arizona League Rangers, while outfielder Santo DeJesus has been sent down to the AZL. … Pitcher Andrew Doyle, a fourth-round pick from the University of Alabama in this year’s draft, has been added to the Indians’ roster. … Outfielder Miguel Alfonzo has been promoted to the Rangers’ lower-A affiliate in Hickory, N.C. … Jason Ogata, who was with the Indians last summer, has been assigned back to Spokane from Hickory.

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