For the second-straight game Yakima set up the Spokane Indians for success and for the second time in three games Drew Robinson was clutch.
Robinson’s sacrifice fly capped a two-run rally in the seventh inning for a 3-2 victory and a three-game sweep of one-run games with the Bears.
While great pitching and some timely hitting has become routine, what made this Northwest League game different for the crowd of 6,038 fans Tuesday night was the first appearance of Kevin Matthews, a high school pitcher out of Georgia and a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers.
It was a strange and promising beginning for the 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-hander who was just promoted from the Arizona League. He struck out the side in his first inning, all three batters swinging and missing on full counts.
A bloop single, walk and bunt single got him in trouble to start the second. Then Tyler Bream hit a towering pop-up to shortstop Hanser Alberto, who dropped it for an error, allowing the runner on third to score, prompting a visit from pitching coach Dave Chavarria. Matthews showed the composure to wiggle out of trouble with a flyout, which made the run earned, and his fourth strikeout, again on a full count.
“To have a young guy come out and start like that (was impressive),” manager Tim Hulett said. “He had a great first inning, but he came out in the second and got in a jam and gave up just one run on a pop-up that should have been caught. That showed a lot of character and grit.”
Matthews’ evening ended after the third inning and 67 pitches.
“I wish I could have thrown more strikes but for the first time I thought I did alright,” he said. “When (Chavarria) came out to the mound he just told me to minimize the damage. I just tried to pound the strike zone and let the fielders work. The sun was real bad (on the pop-up). I was just happy to get out of it.”
Matthews had six strikeouts and two walks while allowing three hits. He threw 38 strikes and 29 balls.
“He’s a lefty with good command of his fastball,” Hulett said. “I think he struggled a little bit with his breaking ball but I think he has a pretty good breaking ball. Tonight was probably one of those nights that adrenalin got to him a little bit.”
In 12 appearances in Arizona, Matthews didn’t pitch in front of as many people as he did with his first start in Spokane.
“It felt good being in front of people,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve thrown in front of so many people and I did alright so my confidence did go up a little. It was nice. It was a lot of fun.”
The Indians (7-7) tied the game 1-1 in the fourth on Rougned Odor’s double, but the Bears (4-10) retook the lead on Raul Navarro’s RBI double.
The game stayed that way until the seventh, which started when Westley Moss dropped Guillermo Pimentel’s sinking liner to center. Zach Cone was hit by a pitch and, after a strikeout, Jorge Alfaro singled to left. Pimentel scored but Cone didn’t go to third until Henry Zabala’s throw skipped past the catcher. Robinson then broke the tie with a fly to center field.
“I feel good about our at-bats,” Hulett said. “Our guys really battled the last three nights against a pretty good starting staff.”