Had they been at a casino, the Spokane Indians wouldn’t have been disappointed to hit 21 on Friday night. And had they not hit 21 – scoreless innings, that is – perhaps the house would have won.
But Spokane had no such luck and Yakima nearly earned a second straight shutout over the Indians as the Bears won 4-1 in Northwest League action in front of 6,934 fans at Avista Stadium.
“It was a slow-moving game,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
That’s been the problem for Spokane (8-14) – on and off – throughout the season.
Through 22 games, Spokane is last in the league in team batting with a .215 average (151 of 701). After coming up with just one hit in Thursday night’s loss, things didn’t get much better on Friday.
“Our top two guys (Chris Garia and Gabriel Roa) are having good at-bats right now, but the middle of our lineup has just folded a little bit,” Hulett said. “A week ago we were swinging the bats really well, and that’s how hitting goes. It’s up and down.”
With 17 games left before the season’s first-half playoff series, Spokane trails first-place Yakima by five games. The Indians won’t see the Bears head-to-head again in the first half, which may make the five-game deficit too difficult to overcome.
“We have to work on keeping these guys emotionally up a little bit, because at this stage we’ve had four or five games in a row where we really haven’t swung the bats well at all,” Hulett said.
And if he could shuffle up and deal, he would – but as of right now, that isn’t in the cards.
“We don’t have a bunch of guys where we can throw in three or four new guys at the top of the order that are having good at-bats,” he said. “We didn’t get any action going on the bases tonight until late.”
But it was too little, too late.
After walking nine batters, Hulett said Spokane was fortunate to only trail 4-0 in the bottom of the eighth, when the Indians spoiled the Bears’ shutout with an RBI single from Garia. But with two outs and runners at the corners, Roa struck out.
In the ninth, the Indians had the tying run at the plate again after Yakima’s Victor Acosta walked Barrett Serrato and Royce Bolinger, but a groundout from Cam Schiller ended the game.
“They threw some pretty good guys at us again (Friday),” Hulett said. “Their first guy really commanded the strike zone and the next guys came in and threw heat and they were tough to beat.”
Starter Shawn Blackwell (1-1) picked up the loss for Spokane, but threw five solid innings, allowing two runs while striking out two.
Spokane begins a three-game road swing at Pasco tonight against Tri-City in the first time the Indians and Dust Devils have met this season.
The Indians will have the day off on Tuesday before beginning an eight-game homestand at Avista Stadium on Wednesday.