One inning made all the difference as the Vancouver Canadians scored six times early and weathered a comeback bid by Spokane Tuesday night at Avista Stadium.
Despite back-to-back home runs by Aja Barto and Vincent DiFazio in the sixth inning, the visitors prevailed 6-4 to even their series at two games apiece.
The teams complete the five-game series tonight at 6:30.
The wheels came off in the third inning for the Indians when the Canadians scored all of their runs.
Starter Ben Henry proved to be his own worst enemy with an errant throw on a well-placed sacrifice bunt to the left side by Jose Crisotomo that sailed over first baseman Jason Ogata and allowed two runs to score.
Henry had previously walked No. 9 batter Ryne Jernigan to open the inning. That was followed by Conner Crumbliss’ base hit to right.
By the time Spokane’s starter exited the inning, the Canadians had batted around with five hits and led 6-1. The final insult was a two-run homer to straightaway center field by Rashun Dixon.
“We had a throwing mistake, but we had trouble with the strike zone that inning,” said manager Tim Hulett. “He got behind hitters and it kind of snowballed.”
With Vancouver starter Hector Garcia hurrying his fastball in the mid-90s for three innings and reliever Daniel Straily even touching 100 miles per hour on the gun to set down Jared Prince in the fourth, Spokane’s batters seemed ill-suited for a chance to rally.
They had struck out 13 times on Monday during their 15-hit outburst and 12 more were set down by Canadians hurlers on Tuesday.
Still, Danny Lima doubled 356 feet off the base of the fence to the right of the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning and was driven home by Miguel Velazquez’s laced single to left off a 95 mph Garcia offering. And Ogata just missed hitting one out in the fourth against Straily, who struck out three other Indians looking in the fourth. He added two more Ks in the fifth.
Enter Kyle Christensen, who had a 1.13 earned run average in eight innings and a 3-0 record, to face Barto and DiFazio. Both belted bombs and the Indians had Ogata at second base giving them hope.
But he was gunned down from right field on a perfect throw by right fielder Jose Crisotomo following Lima’s third straight hit.
Spokane didn’t get another baserunner.
“It was a very tough loss,” said Lima. “They had one big inning and didn’t score after that. We fought the whole time.”
Lima moved from second to ninth in the batting order after singling in his final three at-bats on Monday. He kept up the streak with hits in his first three at-bats. The six consecutive hits over two days raised his batting average 103 points to .302.
Left-hander Joseph Ortiz, in relief of Henry, pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit. Keith Campbell, in his second appearance this season, set down three straight Canadians and Johnny Gunter pitched two shutout innings.