July 19, 2011 in Sports

Reliever Klein allows Indians to rally

By The Spokesman-Review

For a pitcher, relief is both a job and an intent. The point, simply, is to lower the angst.

Phil Klein grasped the concept immediately Tuesday night and in doing so managed to change the entire tenor of what became a 10-3 romp over Boise that kept the Spokane Indians tied for first atop the Northwest League’s East Division.

He also managed to collect his first professional victory in his Avista Stadium debut – witnessed by 4,510 on a cool, breezy evening – with three innings of scoreless relief bolstered by another big Indians offensive outburst: seven runs in the fifth inning.

Klein’s approach was, well, uncomplicated.

“If you don’t try to be too precise and just get it over the plate,” said the recent arrival from Youngstown State, “they’ll get themselves out most of the time.”

In some respects, you can chalk up this latest Spokane win to development and the double play.

The double plays kept Spokane close. Lefty Victor Payano didn’t make it out of the first inning in his last start and had to scratch and claw to get through four this night. He picked off speedy Zeke DeVoss to make quick work of the first inning, but served up a leadoff homer to Paul Hoilman in the second – and fell into a pattern of perpetual trouble.

The Hawks got two more runners on that inning and loaded the bases in both the third and fourth – but managed just one more run, the Indians infield ending all three innings with double plays.

“Bayano admitted he should change his name to Houdini,” laughed manager Tim Hulett. “But I left him out there because I felt he was pitching with some confidence. Even though it wasn’t easy, he was getting the job done.”

In the meantime, the Indians were being tied in knots by Boise starter Yao-Lin Wang, who struck  out seven and allowed just one hit, an opposite-field single by Guillermo Pimentel. But when he hit his work limit after four innings, his relief – Jose Rosario – didn’t have the same grasp as Klein.

Just as the developmental approach dictated Wang had to go, Rosario had to stay all the way through a nightmarish fifth without relief – surrendering six hits sandwiched around an infield error. Two-run rips – a triple by Rougned Odor and a double by Drew Robinson – were the big hits in a rally reminiscent of Spokane’s ninth-inning comeback Monday.

“Once one guy gets that hit, it seems like the floodgates are open and the rest of the team feels the momentum,” Robinson said.

And Klein didn’t want to screw it up.

“When they scored all those runs, I just wanted to go put a zero up,” he said, “and not give a bunch of it back and let things get out of control.”

He fanned five in his three innings. The last got him out of a second-and-third jam in the seventh.

Klein joined the team just last weekend after three short relief appearances in the Arizona League – and though he was a starter at YSU, figures to work out of the bullpen here.

“I threw 92 innings in school already,” he said, “and I think three is probably the most I’ll go. But whatever the coaches want, I’ll do.”

The NWL’s first-half race continues to go down to the wire, after Tri-City rallied with a four-run seventh to beat Yakima. The Indians and Dust Devils hold a two-game lead over Boise.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email