Tim Hulett is quick to admit he still doesn’t know a whole lot about most of the players on his roster.
But the Spokane Indians’ third-year manager knew enough about second baseman Shon Landry, a former collegiate standout at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., to give him the squeeze bunt signal with one out and the scored tied in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday night.
Hulett’s limited insight proved beneficial as Landry dropped a perfect bunt down the first-base line to score pinch runner Denny Duron from third base as the Indians (2-0) edged the Yakima Bears 1-0 in a Northwest League thriller that played out in front of a hearty announced paid crowd of 5,719 that braved cold temperatures and persistent rain showers.
“Actually, Tim’s one guy I do know something about,” explained Hulett, who coached at the high school level in Shreveport, La., prior to coming to Spokane. “Coming from McNeese, I knew he could bunt, because they play a lot of small ball down there.”
Landry, a 31st-round draft pick of the parent Texas Rangers this spring, wasn’t the least bit surprised went he got the squeeze sign from Hulett.
“Bunting is my thing,” he said. “So when he gave it to me, I thought, ‘Here we go. Let’s get this thing down and win it.’ ”
Which is exactly what Landry did, leaving Yakima reliever and loser Will Harvi, the third pitcher for the Bears (0-2), with nothing to do but make a vain glove-hand swipe at the slow-rolling baseball in hopes of flipping it to his catcher.
But even a miracle throw probably wouldn’t have arrived soon enough to get the speedy Duron, who ran for catcher Vincent DiFazio after he led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off the top of the wall in left-center field.
Following DiFazio’s near walk-off homer, Yakima intentionally walked Clark Murphy and both runners advanced on a passed ball before Emmanuel Solis grounded out to shortstop with the Bears’ infield drawn in.
Landry thought he, too, might be walked intentionally. But when Harvi came with a fastball down the middle of the plate, he was given the chance to be a hero.
“I knew I didn’t have to do too much with it,” Landry said, “because I knew (Duron) was coming.”
Landry’s game-winning bunt overshadowed splendid pitching performances by both teams.
The four pitchers used by Hulett limited Yakima to five hits, in addition to striking out nine and walking only one. Spokane starter Matt Thompson pitched five shutout innings and struck out three before turning things over to the bullpen, which allowed only one hit over the last five innings.
Shane Zegarac (1-0), who pitched the 10th for the Indians, got the win, but perhaps the best effort came from Bears starter Ricardo Taveras, who threw six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven.
“Both sides pitched great tonight,” Hulett said. “For us, I like the way our guys came in out of the pen and just started pounding the (strike) zone and going right after hitters. We weren’t messing around.
“And I thought their starter did an excellent job. He mixed his pitches well and commanded both sides of the place. He pitched inside as much as he did outside and really kept our hitters off balance.”