July 16, 2012 in Sports

Indians end 10-game skid

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Christopher Anderson photoBuy this photo

Spokane Indians #32 Aja Barto gets high fives as he returns to the dugout after scoring against Everett Tuesday July 21, 2009 during their game at Avista Stadium in Spokane, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

All record streaks – including the bad ones – eventually are broken.

A 55-minute weather delay only served to stall the inevitable Monday as the Spokane Indians snapped a 10-game losing streak, topping the Tri-City Dust Devils 1-0 before 3,391 in a Northwest League game at Avista Stadium.

Right-handed starter Eric Brooks (1-1) did his part, pitching five scoreless innings and retiring the final 13 batters he faced after giving up a single to open the game. A 2012 11th-round draft pick out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, Brooks gave up just the one hit while striking out four and walking none.

Spokane manager Tim Hulett let out an exhale that might have been as strong as some of the wind gusts during the game.

“We’re not going to be choosy right now,” Hulett said. “We swung the bats pretty well. We hit some balls hard and had much better at-bats. That’s a good sign.”

The drama for the Indians (9-22), though, didn’t end until the final pitch. Reliever Josh McElwee struck out the first two batters in the ninth then Kyle Van Tungeln got his second hit – and the Dust Devils’ second overall.

McElwee had worked a 2-2 count on Rosell Herrera but a wild pitch got past catcher Joe Maloney, allowing Van Tungeln to move to second.

“He gets 0-2 and we make a tough pitch and (Maloney) can’t quite block it and put the guy in scoring position,” Hulett said. “Josh has pitched well a lot for us this year. He’s the guy we want out there in that situation. He’s got a nasty slider and he throws the last pitch and got us a win.”

McElwee struck out Herrera to end the game and finish with four strikeouts. Three Spokane pitchers combined to strike out 10 batters.

Spokane’s 10-game losing streak eclipsed the nine-game mark of the 2006 team. It was the longest losing streak since the Indians became a Single-A short-season club.

The Indians were three losses away from tying the Triple-A Spokane team in 1962 that lost a franchise-worst 13 in a row.

Spokane staked Brooks to a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Leadoff batter Gabriel Roa reached on a single and was moved over by a sacrifice bunt from Cam Schiller. Royce Bolinger got aboard on a throwing error by shortstop Herrera, allowing Roa to score from second.

“As a starting pitcher you want to come out and set the tone and give your team a chance to win,” Brooks said. “The most important thing was stopping the bleeding.

“I felt if I came out and threw strikes and gave my defense a chance to make plays and let the offense do their thing we’d have a chance to stop the losing streak.”

Hulett said the Indians held a team meeting Monday, talking about the fact that while the second half of the season is a week away, that it needed to start now.

“We had a big meeting about it,” Hulett said. “We said you’ve got eight games to get yourselves ready to compete in the second half and you can’t turn it on in the eighth game, you have to start tonight.

“We played a little harder tonight and I saw some things we can get better at.”

Hulett was impressed with Brooks.

“Great start,” Hulett said. “He’s got good stuff. I like his presence on the mound. He really pounded the strike zone.”

Spokane pitchers retired 24 straight before Van Tungeln’s hit in the ninth.

“It’s good for the team,” Brooks said. “We’re back on our feet. We can use this momentum going into the next two games and going into the second half.

“It feels good to win. It’s been a long time.”

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