Indians almost overcome sloppy play, fall to Eugene
The Spokane Indians’ six-game winning streak ended Saturday night because of a case of “shooting-in-the-footitis.”
The Indians played sloppy baseball in the early innings and made a key baserunning blunder during an explosive ninth inning while suffering a 9-8 setback to the Eugene Emeralds in a 3-hour, 36-minute game at Avista Stadium. Spokane leads the five-game Northwest League series 2-1.
The Indians (12-11), trailing 9-4 entering the bottom of the ninth, sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four runs on five hits.
The run that got away occurred when Marcus Greene doubled over the head of center fielder Ronnie Richardson with one out in a 9-7 game. Alberto Triunfel scored from third base, but pinch-runner Saquan Johnson only moved from second base to third.
“I think he thought it was going to get caught,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He went back to the bag to tag, so he was going back the wrong direction at the time the ball landed, so he didn’t really get a good jump. It wasn’t the time (to take a chance on scoring) with one out.”
Adam Cimber, the fifth Eugene pitcher, intentionally walked Brandon Garcia to set up a chance at a game-ending double play. Pinch-hitter Janluis Castro struck out on four pitches before leadoff hitter Chris Garia, who opened the inning with an infield single, flew out to center on a play in which Richardson and right fielder Wynton Bernard nearly collided.
“We didn’t play very well tonight,” Hulett said. “We made a lot of mistakes. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. For the guys to come back and have a shot at winning it there was pretty good, and then we shot ourselves in the foot in the last inning as well.”
Spokane had moved within three games of first-place Everett in the North Division during its longest winning streak in three years, but the AquaSox won on Saturday to send the Indians to four games back.
Eugene broke ahead 3-0 after its first three batters of the game nicked Indians starter Kyle Castro for three hits. The third batter, Fernando Perez, hit a two-run homer to right field.
“In the first at-bat we had a man in scoring position, so I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” said Perez, who was drafted in the third round last season. “I just put a good swing on a changeup.”
Perez also hit a two-run single to right-center in the fourth against a drawn-in infield for a 6-2 lead.
Castro (0-1), making his first start for the Indians, had three walks, three wild pitches, a hit batter and a balk.
“He was pretty wild,” Hulett said. “He didn’t have command of his fastball at all tonight. We’d set up inside, he’d throw it away. We’d set up away and he’d throw it in.”
The Indians stranded two runners on base during each of the first four innings. They also had runners thrown out attempting to steal in the third, fourth and fifth.
“We did leave a lot of people on base, but we did a good job of getting people on base to have those opportunities,” Hulett said.
Eugene pitchers retired 11 consecutive Indians batters until Garia’s single to start the big ninth. Gabe Roa, Kevin Torres and Greene all doubled in the inning.
“It’s a good lesson for these guys to learn,” Hulett said. “It doesn’t matter how many runs we give up, if we keep pecking away, we can get back in the game.”
Eugene’s Michael Bass went 4 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs. Richardson went 1 for 3 and for the series is 6 for 11 with four runs, five walks and four RBIs.
Indians pitcher Josh McElwee was called up to Myrtle Beach (S.C.) of the Class A Advanced Carolina League. McElwee went 1-0 with Spokane, with a 1.93 ERA in 91/3 innings. He struck out 22, walked three and saved one game. … The Indians’ pitching staff entered the game in third place in league ERA (3.34). … The NWL’s new team, Hillsboro (Ore.,) has the league’s worst record (6-17) but is third in average league attendance (3,888). Spokane leads at 4,902.