The six-game losing streak was all but over. The Spokane Indians just needed three outs and another clean inning of defense.
It would have been a fitting ending, considering the Indians played better on Thursday night than they have in their last several outings. They even had a strong showing from their most recent roster addition, starting pitcher C.J. Edwards.
But a wild pitch from reliever Josh McElwee in the top of the ninth opened the door for the tying run to cross the plate, and the Eugene Emeralds went on to a 4-2 Northwest League victory in 10 innings in front of 4,625 fans at Avista Stadium.
“We played better,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “The pitchers did a great job tonight, but our defense let us down in the end. In a one-run game, you can’t make mistakes and we made them. It cost us.”
The Indians (8-19) took a 2-1 lead over the Emeralds (15-11) when left fielder Saquan Johnson homered in the bottom of the fifth – a two-run shot to left and his first of the season. They carried the lead through the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, McElwee’s wild pitch allowed Maxx Tissenbaum to reach third before he scored on Dane Phillips’ sacrifice fly to left to tie the score at 2. The Emeralds added two runs in the 10th for the win.
The Indians had a pair of defensive errors and four pitchers combined for seven walks.
“They were having a tough time running on us – we were doing a good job with their running game most of the night – and then we let them have some free bases,” Hulett said. “We talk about that all the time – free bases can beat you. That’s what beat us tonight.”
While Spokane had more total hits than in Wednesday’s loss in the series opener, it still struggled from the plate, as three Eugene pitchers scattered seven hits, combined for eight strikeouts and just one walk.
“We’ve got to score more runs than that, because our pitchers can’t hold them to two or three runs a night,” Hulett said. “We’ve got to take some of the pressure off our pitching staff.”
Edwards made the pitching look solid for the first part of the game.
The righty from Newberry, S.C., who was just called up from the Arizona rookie league after pitching 20 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts, worked five innings in his debut in Spokane. He struck out two and walked three with no earned runs allowed.
“Excellent outing for a kid coming up,” Hulett said. “I’m very impressed with his command of the strike zone. It doesn’t always transfer from Arizona to here, and if you’re throwing well there sometimes the bright lights will get you up here, so that was good for him.”
Now the Indians will hope to put together a game that’s good for all of them.
“It was right there tonight and that makes it more frustrating,” Hulett said. “You have to get one of those kinds of wins to get out of the habit of losing. You want to get a game like that and it just didn’t happen.”