Perhaps winning can be just as contagious as that other thing.
For the third straight game after snapping a 10-game losing streak, the Spokane Indians showed signs that things could be headed in the right direction, especially on the brink of the second half of the baseball season.
Saquan Johnson, who entered the game hitting an abysmal .125, got a run-scoring triple and a two-run homer in his first two at bats to lead Spokane to a 7-5 win over the Tri-City Dust Devils on Wednesday in a Northwest League game before 3,773 at Avista Stadium.
Now the Indians (11-22) embark on an eight-game road trip, beginning tonight in Vancouver, British Columbia, before concluding with three games at Tri-City (14-19).
“Once you win that one game, sometimes it can snowball the other way,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “The guys have been playing hard. We got some breaks and that sort of got things going.”
After Tri-City scored a run in the first inning, Spokane didn’t waste any time evening things up. And the Indians did it with some help from Dust Devil starting pitcher Joshua Slaats, who tried to pick off Ryan Rua at first base with teammate Gabriel Roa on second. Slaats’ throw got past the first baseman, allowing Roa to score.
The Dust Devils scored another run in the second, but Spokane took control with three in the bottom of the inning.
Johnson hit a triple, scoring Cam Schiller – who reached on a double – and Royce Bolinger had an RBI single.
In the third, Spokane extended the lead to 6-2 when Johnson hit his homer.
A 28th-round draft pick in 2011 out of high school, Johnson, an Elizabethtown, N.C., native raised his batting average 41 points.
“He’s had a couple of good nights back to back now,” Hulett said. “It was a big home run for us. We didn’t get a lot of hits tonight, but we got hits with guys on. He’s (Johnson) been swinging the bat well.”
Johnson is beginning to feel comfortable in his uniform.
“At the plate I feel more confidence and comfortable,” Johnson said. “I’m getting my pitches. I’m not missing them now. I’m just taking my time and really just trying to drive runs in and big things are happening for me.”
The series sweep gives Spokane some much-needed momentum going on the road.
“It was a good three games, but it’s tough to win on the road,” Hulett said. “To go on the road on a high like this is a good thing.”
Hulett likes the things he’s seen the last three games.
“They’ve been working hard all year,” he said. “The focus and the energy (have) been a lot better here. Sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to have energy when the season starts getting long. Most of these guys haven’t played this many games this many days in a row. A lot of them were coming off a college season. It’s wearing on them a little bit, but I think we’re over the hump now. I see guys putting the effort in and mentally working at staying in the game.”
Johnson sees a change, too.
“Those games we lost we were just going through the motions,” Johnson said. “Now we’re bringing the momentum and we want to win. I feel good about the second half. We’re playing as a team and we’re playing for one another.”
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