Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that it was Rally Towel Night at Avista Stadium.
Trailing 4-2, the Spokane Indians rallied for a 6-4 win over the Yakima Bears in front of 4,334 in a Northwest League baseball game Thursday.
In just 14 games, it appears that Ruben Sierra Jr. has developed a flair for the dramatic.
He knocked a 2-2 fastball clocked at 89 mph for an opposite-field two-run homer in the eighth inning to cap the comeback.
“He’s a very excitable guy and fun to watch,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “He’s got some tools. He’s got opposite-field power, but he also has a lot of speed. A lot of guys pitch him away. He’s really learned that if he’ll just be satisfied hitting the ball the other way, he does a great job of it.”
Sierra liked being in the situation with the game on the line.
“I was in a bit of a slump and they’re working with me to go opposite field,” Sierra said. “I was trying to do too much, but they’re working with me to stay calm and try to hit the ball the other way. That’s exactly what I did today. I just tried to hit the ball to the other side, middle upper cut.”
And Sierra knew the ball was gone immediately.
“I could tell by the sound of the bat,” Sierra said.
An unsung hero on the mound so far has been middle reliever Juan Grullon (4-0), who hasn’t allowed a run in 12 2/3 innings. He pitched 3 2/3 innings, striking out five and allowing just two hits.
“He’s been kind of our go-to guy in a lot of these games,” Hulett said. “He really pounded the strike zone, he’s held runners well and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Obtained as a free agent in 2006 out of Santiago, Dominican Republic, Grullon admits he wanted to be a starter this season. But he believes he’s found his niche.
“I’m trying to make good pitches and locate my pitches,” Grullon said. “I feel really comfortable as middle reliever.”
Drew Robinson hit a 0-2, two-out single to drive in two runs to give Spokane (8-6) a 2-1 lead in the third.
But Yakima (4-10) regained the lead at 4-2 with three runs in the fifth, two coming in on a double by Zach Jones.
Single runs in the fifth and sixth off of ex-Lake City High pitcher Alex Capaul allowed the Indians to knot the score at 4, setting up Sierra’s dramatic homer.
“It’s a good couple of wins especially after losing four in a row,” Hulett said. “Nobody was really panicking after the four losses in a row – at least not on the staff. Players sometimes have a different perspective.”
Spokane heads to Tri-City tonight for three games before returning Monday for eight at home, beginning with three against Tri-City.
Spokane, Tri-City and Boise are tied for first place in the East Division.
Sierra believes the Indians have the ingredients to do something special this summer.
“This team is going to make it this year,” Sierra said. “This team has what it takes to be a champion.”