Now would be a good time for the Spokane Indians to go on a little streak.
Playing the first of eight consecutive home games Monday, Spokane moved into a first-play tie with the Tri-City Dust Devils and the Boise Hawks with a 6-4 Northwest League win before a standing-room only crowd of 6,857 at Avista Stadium.
It was about this time last summer that the Indians started to separate themselves from the East Division, locking up a playoff berth by mid July by winning the first half of league.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro put right-handed starter Santo Perez (3-0) in position for the win when he broke a 4-all tie with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. The blast came on an inside fastball with two outs.
“We have not been stretching the hitting as much as we’ve been stressing the defensive side of it, calling the pitches, blocking balls and keeping the tempo of the game going,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said of Alfaro. “He’s really worked hard. Offensively we know we’re going to get some stuff from him now and then.”
Alfaro, signed as a free agent in 2010 out of Sincelejo, Colombia, is considered to have a high ceiling in the Texas Rangers’ organization, the Indians’ MLB affiliate.
“It’s been exciting (to) do something to help the team to win not only behind the plate but at the plate,” Alfaro said through an interpreter. “Every time I can do something big for the team it’s huge for (me).”
The Indians (10-8) also received a solid outing from left-handed reliever Chris Hanna, who allowed just one hit in four innings while striking out four. He’s been especially effective after a blowup in his first outing.
“He’s pitched well and given us some innings when we needed them,” Hulett said. “We put him off a couple of nights in a row. We had opportunities to use him but kind of save him. He was pretty fresh and ready to pitch. He’s able to mix his pitches really well. After that first game he got comfortable. You start feeling like you belong after you pitch a couple of times.”
Hanna has put that poor first appearance behind him.
“I had a shaky start the first time I went out there but that’s OK as long as I improve and get better I’ll be alright,” said Hanna, an 11th round pick out of Ladson, S.C., in 2010. “I just want my team to go out there and win. I felt really fresh coming off of six or seven days off.”
The Indians appear poised to start a solid stretch, especially at home. Hulett said it will take good play just to stay in the hunt in the Indians’ division.
“I think we’re going to have to make a surge just to stay in it because there are a couple of good teams right there with us,” Hulett said. “The guys played a nice game tonight.
Winning last night and coming home and winning in front of a nice crowd was nice.”