Time is running out on the 2012 Spokane Indians, but at least for a night right-handed Jose Valdespina kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.
A free-agent signee out of Santiago, Dominican Republic in 2010, Valdespina was spot on for six innings, allowing just one hit while striking out a season-high 10 as Spokane shut out the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 3-0 in a Northwest League baseball game Thursday before 4,673 at Avista Stadium.
That was the good news.
The bad news, though, is the Indians (13-17) moved within two games of elimination as first-place Boise won easily.
“All we can do is take care of our business right now,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said.
And while it appears it would take nothing short of a miracle for the Indians to find themselves still in the chase for a playoff berth next week, catcher Patrick Cantwell is pleased his team isn’t going down without a fight.
“We’ve played much better the second half, the results don’t show it,” Cantwell said.
“A few balls bounced Boise’s way. They did what they had to do. Hopefully we can catch some dumb luck and they struggle a little bit to finish out the season.”
One thing Valdespina didn’t need Thursday was luck. He dominated, going to 0-2 on batter after batter. Three Spokane pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts.
“My fastball and breaking ball were really good,” Valdespina said through an interpreter. “I’ve got one more start but it’s a good way to end the season. I’ve been working really hard with my pitching coach.”
Hulett said that when the 6-foot-6 Valdespina has control, he’s difficult to hit.
“This is his third straight solid start since he’s started going to the stretch,” Hulett said. “He’s got a big body and his arms and legs are going all over the place. Going to the stretch has given him better control.”
The Indians gave Valdespina (3-6) all the scoring he would need in the first inning. Gabriel Roa reached on an error and Cantwell followed with a run-scoring triple that hit off the top of the wall in left. He scored moments later on a broken-bat single by Ryan Rua.
Spokane added an insurance run in the seventh. Joey Gallo reached on a double and moved to third on a passed ball. Preston Beck knocked him in with a single.
“He’s really been working hard with our pitching coach,” Cantwell said of Valdespina. “When he’s throwing 90-95 downhill with command, he’s hard to hit. He’s doing everything to be successful right now.”
Spokane has two more games at home before it finishes with five games at Eugene.
“Time’s slipping away,” Hulett said. “Our guys have done a good job in the second half. We just had a couple tough losses against Boise.”