The Spokane Indians return home to Avista Stadium tonight for their final homestand of the season with a pair of streaks intact.
One of those – a 16-game streak of at least one hit batter per game – isn’t one they’d like to have continue as the short-season Class A Northwest League short season winds down.
The other – a 19-game hitting streak (see factbox) – has Royce Bolinger on the brink of cracking the franchise’s top 10.
“His approach is right and his game has evened out,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said.
“It’s not just one hit, either,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He’s getting 2 or 3 at times because of his approach – he’s fighting off tough pitches.”
Bolinger was hit in Spokane’s Aug. 3 loss to Boise, kick starting a 16-game streak of what has unintentionally become target practice – for Spokane and its opponents alike. Cam Schiller – one of Spokane’s more consistent batters – is benched with a broken thumb because of the trend.
The number hit unprecedented heights on Thursday when eight total batters were tagged in the Indians’ 8-2 loss to Yakima – five by three Spokane pitchers, and three by two Yakima pitchers.
That eclipsed the previous NWL record of a combined six hit batters in one game – recorded twice (in 1990 and 2004).
The total number of hit batters by the Indians won’t likely equal the 77 batters Yakima hit in the 2010 season, but Spokane’s streak has produced an unusually high frequency in a short period of time. With 13 games remaining, Spokane has hit a league-high 58 batters so far (in 63 games) – 22 in the last 16.
In the same 16-game stretch, Spokane batters have been hit 22 times by opposing pitchers.
Bolinger has been hit four times, and former Stonybrook catcher Patrick Cantwell has been hit five times, while 12 different Spokane pitchers have contributed to the number of batters the Indians have collectively tattooed.
Hulett isn’t sure what to make of it.
“For us I think it’s a lack of control, and it’s been on off-speed pitches,” Hulett said. “There’s a pattern in the development process where you try and get your guys to start pitching in – but I can’t even say it’s that for us, we’re not trying to do that right now.
“With guys at the plate, you get to a stage where you have to push them in a little and make them a little uncomfortable, and some guys don’t have the command to handle that.”
“But,” as Spokane baseball historian Jim Price pointed out, “that happens every year.
“In more than half a century of following professional baseball, I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s hard to believe all of this … is poor control.”
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