Despite being the prototypical .500 team, the Spokane Indians have two ways to qualify for postseason during the last six days of the Northwest League regular season.
The first way is more direct but less likely. The Indians can capture the North Division second-half title by winning at least five of their remaining games, all against Everett. Spokane (15-17) is three games behind the AquaSox (18-14), who have taken control of the division with seven consecutive wins.
Everett is 5-1 against Spokane this season, but the teams haven’t played since June 30.
“They’ve been tough on us,” Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “But the game of baseball is funny. You never know what’s going to happen because it’s a different kind at atmosphere, a different kind of pressure. You don’t know how guys are going to perform under that pressure.”
Spokane’s other possible route to the playoffs is less direct and more likely. If Everett wins the second-half title, repeating its effort from the first half of the season, the second postseason spot goes to the team with the next-best overall record.
The Indians (35-35) are one game behind Vancouver (36-34) in that category. Spokane will need to play well against Everett and receive some help from the Tri-City Dust Devils, who are playing Vancouver six times to end the season.
Tying Vancouver for the second-best overall record won’t help the Indians. The first tiebreaker in that case is head-to-head competition during the second half. Thanks to its just-completed 2-1 series win over Spokane, the Canadians lead that contingency 4-2.
Spokane has played exactly or close to .500 in several categories: overall record; record vs. the North (15-15); record vs. the South (20-20); home record (17-18); and road record (18-17). But the Indians have kept their hopes flickering as the regular season winds down.
“Everybody has a positive spirit right now in the locker room,” catcher Joe Jackson said. “Everybody wants to make the playoffs.”
“We just need a way to win these last … games,” catcher Marcus Greene said. “We need to find a way to win and get a spot in the playoffs.”
Spokane’s scheduled rotation for its final regular-season home series is Collin Wiles (2-5, 3.36), Ryne Slack (2-0, 2.47) and Kelvin Vasquez (1-2, 2.04).
The Indians have been using a six-man rotation, but right-hander John Niggli was just promoted to Hickory (N.C.). Niggli went 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts with the Indians.