Most important statistic Friday in the Spokane-Boise Northwest League baseball game?
The Spokane Indians got to the seventh inning with a lead – and they haven’t lost a game when that’s happened.
While the ending was more dramatic than Spokane manager Tim Hulett wanted, catcher Yefry Castillo’s one-hop bullet to the left-center field wall brought in the winning run in a 3-2 decision before a sold-crowd of 6,831 at Avista Stadium.
Spokane is 25-0 when it leads after seven innings. It was the Indians’ third win in a row after suffering seven straight setbacks on the road. The Indians moved their second-half record to 10-14 and took a two-game lead over Boise (11-13) in the race to see which team finishes with the best overall record behind Tri-City, the first-half winner of the East Division.
“It feels great to be able to help the team,” Castillo said through hitting coach Josue Perez.
Castillo, who is hitting .325, said it wasn’t the biggest hit in his career. A free-agent signee out of Santiago, Dominican Republic, in 2008, he had a bigger hit shortly after he signed.
“We never dropped our heads,” Castillo said of the Indians’ quick turnaround in recent games. “We lost seven in a row but we know it’s part of the game. We’ve always felt we can win ballgames.”
It was Castillo’s 11th RBI and certainly his most important.
Closer Matt West (1-2) picked up the win but it took a blown save, his fifth of the season, in the top of the ninth for that result.
West struck out the lead-off hitter with a curveball. Pinch hitter Ryan Cuneo had a 1-1 count when West threw a fastball that Cuneo belted over the right-field fence.
Castillo said he called for a fastball inside, but the 93 mph pitch was middle in.
“Unfortunately, ‘Westy’ has given up a couple of home runs and when you’re a closer it just gets magnified,” Hulett said. “You know what we’re going to keep running him out there. He’s going to be the guy who’s going to be in that situation. I feel good with him out there. He’s going to get his.”
Spokane’s first two batters in the ninth, Edwin Garcia and Trever Adams, drew walks. Brett Nicholas, after failing to get a bunt down, had a foul out to bring up Castillo.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the second when 2011 first-round supplemental draft pick Zach Cone, mired in a slump dating back to mid-July, lifted a sacrifice fly to left in his first start after sitting on the bench for two games. He is 7 for 100 since July 16 and his average, which was at .303 at the start of the slump, is .198.
Hanser Alberto put the Indians ahead 2-1 in the fifth with a run-scoring single.
Left-handed pitcher Kevin Matthews, the Texas Rangers’ 2011 first-round draft pick, wasn’t around to pick up his first win, but he had a no-hitter through four innings before giving up a run in the fifth. He left with two outs in the fifth and reliever Jose Mavare got a strikeout to strand two runners.
Mavare allowed a hit in 11/3 before giving way to Kyle Hendricks, who had four strikeouts and gave up one hit in two innings before turning it over to West.
“We did a pretty good job of working together,” Castillo said. “Sometimes I was calling pitches and they were shaking, but we were working well together.”
Hulett praised his middle relievers.
“Mavare hasn’t gotten to throw a lot here and we put him into a pretty big situation that he hadn’t been in for a while,” Hulett said.
“He really got us where we needed to be with Hendricks in there. He’s pitched well for us all year.”
Spokane will send Santo Perez (5-2), its most effective starter, to the mound tonight as the Indians try for a series sweep.