Just as any baseball player is taught to do as an underwhelming season trudges on, the Spokane Indians keep swinging.
The problem is they keep missing – which, though hard to believe, may get worse before it gets better.
With one week remaining in the first half of the Northwest League season, the Indians’ offensive woes continued on Sunday night in their 10th straight loss as the Eugene Emeralds swept the five-game series with an 8-2 victory in front of 3,709 fans at Avista Stadium.
The loss eclipses the 2006 team’s nine-game losing streak – the most since the Indians became a Single-A short-season club – and puts Spokane (8-22) three away from tying the Triple-A Spokane team in 1962, which lost a franchise-high 13 in a row.
With a league-low .209 collective batting average, the Indians are still four away from their 200th hit of the season. The next lowest number is Tri-City’s 227 total hits. Spokane is also the only team in the NWL with less than 10 wins.
“Up until now we haven’t been changing anything,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “They’re seeing a higher velocity now, and we’ve been trying to let them work on things and develop. But this is about the time we start putting our hands on them a little bit and talk to them about shortening their swing, or changing their set up, or things that will make them successful.
“When you first make changes you sometimes step back a little, so I think in the next week you’ll see us have some good games and probably some more bad ones. But in the long haul, it’s going to pay off.”
Hulett hopes the payoff comes in the second half of the NWL season, since Spokane has been eliminated from the first-half playoff race.
“We want to make sure we’re ready to play and compete when that begins,” he said.
To do so, they’ll obviously need to start generating some offense.
They also need to once and for all clean up on defense (they made four errors on Sunday) and need consistent pitching, especially from their starters.
In Sunday’s start, Abel De Los Santos, who has been Spokane’s most reliable starter, walked two, gave up six hits and four runs (three earned) in four innings. He also struck out six.
The Indians begin a three-game series against the Tri-City Dust Devils tonight at Avista Stadium and will close out the first half of the season with a five-game series at Vancouver, which begins Thursday.
Spokane baseball historian Jim Price contributed research for this story.