Five straight walks to start the game, five straight strikeouts to end it – more or less.
In between came the weird, the reckless, the sloppy and the clutch – in other words, normalcy in the Northwest League, or at least nothing new to Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett.
“Seen it all, saw it all, experienced it all,” he said.
A night after one of their best and most crisp efforts of the season, the Indians ran their winning streak to three on Wednesday night in a different fashion, sweeping the reeling Boise Hawks out of town 6-4 at Avista Stadium.
Now the Tri-City Dust Devils pull in tonight for a three-game series with the East Division first-half title at stake – the teams tied atop the standings with 18-15 records and just five games left before the split.
“It’s that time,” Spokane center fielder Zach Cone said.
At least the Indians seem to have established an identity for that time, that of a big-inning team.
This time it was a five-run fifth, triggered by Cone’s third home run of the year, a solo shot over the left-field wall, and capped by four that were unearned – with the key plays being a strikeout and a slow ground ball with crazy eyes.
Singles by Brett Nicholas and Trever Adams followed the tying homer, with Adams forced on a fielder’s choice by Drew Robinson, who then managed to steal second in the process of getting picked off. Nick Vickerson struck out, but the ball got away from catcher Rafael Lopez – and though his throw was on the money, first baseman Willson Contreras did a little soft-shoe number around the bag that allowed Vickerson to reach safely.
Hanser Alberto then sent his two-out roller through the box that shortstop Wes Darvill was waiting to scoop up – only to have it hit the second base bag and carom away, scoring two runs. Rougned Odor followed with a two-run single and once again the Indians had their crooked number.
It made a winner out of Santo Perez (4-1) who scraped through 51/3 innings, getting help from catcher Carson Vitale gunning down a pair of would-be base thieves and surviving two of Spokane’s three errors.
“We’ve been having them every night,” sighed Hulett. “I think our pitchers are just getting used to it and working their way out of trouble.”
Boise starter Su-Min Jung made his own trouble – walking five straight Indians in the first inning after a leadoff out, though he was tagged with only one run because Odor got himself picked off. Reliever Cam Greathouse (0-3) got Vickerson on a strikeout to end the inning and pitched respectably until the fifth.
The Hawks tried to put up a fight after losing the lead, with Reggie Golden’s triple driving in two runs in the sixth. When he attempted to score on a ball that momentarily eluded Vitale, he became the third out – but not before plowing down the completely vulnerable catcher, who left the game with an injured ankle and collarbone.
Chris Hanna worked through a two-on, no-out threat in the seventh and then Kyle Hendricks blew the Hawks away for his third save, striking out five of the six batters he faced.
“He’s been the guy lately,” Hulett said. “With things the way they are and the bullpen a little thin, he’s done a great job. He’s a strike thrower and mixes it up well.”
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