The hit and run can be an extremely effective weapon in the latter stages of a close baseball game like the one the Spokane Indians and Vancouver Canadians were locked up in Sunday night.
It becomes ultra effective, however, when the “run” part of the equation happens to be a two-run home run like the one Cody Podraza launched off Vancouver reliever Pedro Vidal in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie and catapult the Indians to a 4-0 Northwest League victory in front of an Avista Stadium crowd of 3,195.
Vinnie DiFazio also hit a two-run homer in the eighth to cap Spokane’s late scoring outburst, but it was Podraza’s blast – which came after Joe Bonadonna had opened the inning with a single and was on move to second – that decided the issue.
“It was definitely a hit and run,” Indians manager Tim Hulett explained, breaking into a big grin, “and Cody’s going to get fined, because he was supposed to get that ball on the ground.”
Podraza did his best to plead his case, but refused to offer an apology for his wind-blown game-winner, which sailed over the fence in left-center field.
“I really meant to hit in on the ground, I swear,” said the speedy 5-foot-9 centerfielder, who was batting from the right side of the plate. “It was a low and away fastball and I was just trying to reach out there and put it in play – but when I looked up, I thought, ‘That wasn’t supposed to happen.’
“Really, I think anyone who saw me swing knew I wasn’t trying to hit it out of the park.”
The eighth-inning power surge snapped a two-game skid for the Indians (6-10), who will entertain the Canadians (7-9) again tonight at 6:30 at Avista Stadium.
And it also rewarded some excellent pitching, which included another splendid effort by starter Robbie Ross, who ended up with a no-decision, despite pitching five masterful shutout innings.
Kyle O’Campo replaced Ross to open the sixth inning and tacked on two more scoreless innings before giving way to Justin King (1-1), who shut down the Canadians in the ninth to pick up the win.
“We had great pitching tonight, and it’s good for our offense to get something there at the end,” Hulett said. “It was a tough night. Pitchers pitched well on both sides. We didn’t swing the bats well (Saturday) night (in a 5-3 loss), so it was good to get this one.”
Ross, who came into the game with a NWL-leading 24 strikeouts, added 10 to that total by fanning two batters in each of the five innings he worked.
The 5-foot-11 lefthander walked just one, and one of the four hits he allowed was an infield single on a high bouncer to shortstop.
“He pitched great again tonight,” Hulett said of Ross. “It’s funny, though, because his command wasn’t as good as it’s been. He missed a lot of balls outside high – maybe because he was trying to overthrow a little bit.
“But overall, he made some great pitches.”