Balbino Fuenmayor has opening-night jitters and Spokane Indians third baseman Smerling Lantigua to thank for his first home run of the season.
It was Lantigua’s throwing error with two outs in the third inning that gave the Vancouver first baseman an opportunity at the plate that he shouldn’t have had.
It also gave the Indians a deficit they wouldn’t overcome as the Canadians went on to win the Northwest League season opener for both teams 8-1 on Friday night in front of 6,478 fans at Avista Stadium.
“That was a tough inning there,” sixth-year Indians coach Tim Hulett said.
“We got the 0-2 pitch up and the guy gets a jam hit, and then we make an error, and then we throw a bad pitch against a really good hitter and it kind of went on from there.”
Vancouver’s Dan Klein led the inning off with a line drive to center and scored four batters later on Lantigua’s throwing error, which opened the door for Fuenmayor’s homer.
The Canadians (1-0) added to their lead with two runs in the fifth and Klein’s leadoff home run to left field in the sixth gave Vancouver a 7-0 lead.
Right-hander John Kukuruda (0-1), who made five starts for Spokane last season and posted an 8.15 earned-run average before a shoulder injury ended his season early, started on the mound for the Indians (0-1) and worked four innings.
Kukuruda gave up two hits and one earned run, walked one and struck out four.
“I did like his stuff,” Hulett said.
“He did a good job early in the game of keeping the ball down and moving it around, getting some good outs. And he worked ahead a lot early on. Then he started to get tired and had a tough inning, but I’m glad he worked through the fourth and struck out his last batter.”
Five Canadians pitchers gave up a combined three hits and struck out eight as Spokane struggled to get things going. Javier Avendano (1-0), who replaced Vancouver starter Eric Brown in the fifth and pitched two innings, struck out four and earned the win.
“We didn’t swing the bats well tonight, but we’ll be OK,” Hulett said.
“We got to see a few new guys and I like what I saw.
“But there wasn’t a whole lot of offense and we need to clean up the defense a little bit. The guys need to get used to playing under the lights in front of the big crowd.”
Spokane avoided the shutout when shortstop Nick Urbanus singled to center with two on and two out in the eighth, scoring Barrett Serrato.
Vancouver reliever Zack Breault hit Preston Beck to load the bases for Gonzaga alum Royce Bolinger, who made his pro debut, but Bolinger’s long ball came up just short and was snagged at the track by Canadians center fielder Dalton Pompey.
“I wanted that one, definitely,” Bolinger said. “But it was fun. There was a good atmosphere tonight. It’s a bit of an adjustment for me and the college guys that just got out, but it shouldn’t take long for it to feel right.”
Spokane’s five-game homestand with Vancouver resumes tonight at Avista Stadium.
Spokane’s three hits came from Urbanus, Ryan Rua and Cam Schiller. … As part of the Opening Night festivities, the Indians added Jack Spring and Elten Schiller to the Rim on Honor, joining permanent ROH members Dwight Aden, Tommy Lasorda, Levi McCormack and Maury Wills. Spring, a Spokane native, pitched at Washington State before turning pro with the Indians in the 1950s. Spring also coached at West Valley High School and won a state title in 1978. Schiller, whose son threw out the first pitch, had a 41-year career in baseball with five seasons as general manager in Spokane (1967-1971). He died earlier this year at the age of 88. … Spokane will play eight of its first 13 games of the season at home.