As far as Spokane manager Tim Hulett is concerned, there’s only one way to respond to an ugly loss.
That response played out in a 4-3 victory by the Spokane Indians in 10 innings over the Vancouver Canadians on Thursday before 3,716 in a Northwest League baseball game at Avista Stadium.
After lulling the fans to sleep the night before, the Indians (12-9) kept them until the end Thursday. Part of that was because of the $10,000 giveaway if Spokane’s pitchers combined for at least 10 strikeouts.
That was accomplished in the ninth when closer Matt West struck out the second batter he faced with the Indians ahead 3-1. But moments later, West suffered a third blown save when Randy Schwartz, the Canadians’ No. 8 batter in the lineup, laced a 92 mph fastball on a 1-2 count over the left-field fence.
After reliever Kyle Hendricks (1-1) got Vancouver (12-9) in order in the top of the 10th, the Indians loaded the bases with one out when shortstop Hanser Alberto lofted a fly ball to left field. Braxton Lane, pinch running for Brett Nicholas, tagged and scored as the throw was well over the catcher’s head.
“We made it a tough win, but we got it done,” Hulett said. “When you don’t take care of some opportunities early in the game that we had to expand the lead, you always have that threat of one swing tying the game up.”
Alberto had a simple approach in the final at bat.
“I was looking for a good pitch to hit and try to hit it out of the infield,” Alberto said through an interpreter. “Even though they were playing shallow (in the outfield), I knew we had a good runner at third.”
Highly regarded right-handed pitcher David Perez, 0-2 and making his fifth start for Spokane, battled through five innings. He threw a lot of pitches (93), but he allowed just one hit and struck out five.
“I don’t know if it was his best start, but he really battled,” Hulett said. “He still struggled with throwing strike one a couple of innings. He didn’t seem to have a good command of his pitches, but then he came out and found the zone. He’s an 18-year-old kid and I like what he does.”
Hulett doesn’t know if his team would have pulled out the extra-inning win had it been on the road.
“Being at home, you get the last at bat,” Hulett said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons and different ways to score. We didn’t execute very well and maybe we didn’t deserve to win late in the game, because we didn’t execute. But sometimes it’s better to get lucky and win a game.”
The Indians took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when Zach Cone hit his first homer.
Hulett continues to be impressed with Nicholas.
“He’s been our best guy at the plate,” Hulett said. “Just having a good game awareness and knowing what’s going on. If you make a bad pitch, he’s going to hit a double. If you don’t throw strikes, he’s going to walk.”