Hits were scarce in the first few innings as Spokane and Tri-City batters had to deal with pitchers standing partly in sunlight and partly in shadows.
Both teams’ offenses heated up as the sun went down and Spokane put together big rallies in the sixth and seventh innings to hold off the visiting Dust Devils 10-7 in Northwest League baseball Tuesday night in front of 3,020 at Avista Stadium.
Spokane (11-8), with its third consecutive win over Tri-City (10-9), remained in a first-place East Division tie with Boise, a 5-4 winner over Yakima. Indians starter Richard Alvarez gave up just one hit in five innings and Tri-City counterpart Tyler Gagnon kept the Indians hitless until two outs in the fourth.
“Until the pitcher gets in the shadows, he’s throwing a hidden ball for the first 10 feet so it’s tough, but it can be like that anywhere,” said Indians first baseman Trever Adams, who had a base hit, scored twice and drove in two. “It took a couple innings for us to get it going.”
Tri-City took a 1-0 lead with its lone hit off Alvarez, a solo homer by Juan Crousset in the first inning. Alvarez walked one and fanned five in his five innings of work.
“He’s had some rough innings, but his last outing was pretty good and tonight he was pretty good,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “Not to take anything away from him, but it was very tough to see with the bright background and the shadows came out. We’ve been swinging the bats pretty well, but I had a lot of hitters saying anything up they couldn’t see at all.”
Spokane tied it in the fifth, courtesy of Nick Vickerson’s walk, Gagnon’s throwing error on a pick-off attempt and an error by shortstop Taylor Featherston on Hirotoshi Onaka’s grounder.
The Dust Devils went back in front on Jared Simon’s towering two-run homer in the sixth off reliever Juan Grullon, the first runs he’s allowed this season.
Spokane quickly responded in the bottom of the sixth. Brett Nicholas hit a one-out double and went to third on a bad-hop single by Guillermo Pimentel. Nicholas scored on Adams’ grounder to third. Jorge Alfaro’s RBI single tied the score at 3.
Tri-City right fielder Jaron Shepherd made a leaping catch to rob former Mississippi State teammate Vickerson of extra bases and Spokane of two runs, but Braxton Lane followed with a run-scoring single.
Spokane led 9-3 after a five-run seventh. Adams, Alfaro and Vickerson delivered RBI hits, Hanser Alberto added a run-scoring groundout and Tri-City helped out with another error. The Dust Devils entered the game leading the NWL with a 2.63 ERA, but they had allowed 17 unearned runs, second most among the eight teams. Tri-City finished with four errors and three Spokane runs were unearned.
“We’ve made them pay and part of the reason they’re making errors is because they know we run out of the box and we have a lot of guys that can get down the line,” Hulett said. “We hit a ground ball, you better come get it.”
Spokane finished with 11 hits, three each by Pimentel and Alfaro. Grullon improved to 5-0 despite yielding five earned runs.