Richard Alvarez has been plugging away in the minor leagues for five seasons, trying to find his groove on the mound.
Sam Wolff has been all but unhittable during his first three weeks as a professional pitcher.
Together, Alvarez and Wolff played key roles Monday as the Spokane Indians completed a successful five-game series against the Eugene Emeralds at Avista Stadium.
Alvarez (1-1) retired all five batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings, striking out two, and Wolff followed with three strikeouts and two scoreless innings as the Indians (14-11) edged Eugene 2-1 to win the Northwest League series 4-1.
Indians starter Collin Wiles, who struggled in his last two outings, pitched 41/3 effective innings. He left with a 2-1 lead after Henry Charles led off the fifth with a homer to right and Miguel Castillo followed with a long fly that right fielder Ryan Cordell chased down.
Cody Ege pitched the ninth to earn his first save, picking off Wynton Bernard at first base to end the game while Charles stood at the plate with a 3-2 count.
The Indians, who have won eight of their last nine games and 13 of their last 18, outscored the Emeralds (8-17) 32-20 in the series despite hits being equal at 45 apiece.
Alvarez, who pitched for Spokane in 2011 and ’12, started this season with four shaky outings that put his earned-run average at 10.38. Last Wednesday, he pitched three effective innings against Tri-City.
“My approach is to start by throwing a strike and command my fastball, that’s it. … “I’m working every day with my pitching coach and he told me to just throw the ball over the plate, and that’s working,” Alvarez said.
“Alvy has done a much better job of going after hitters and throwing strikes early in the count,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “Then he can use his breaking ball late in the count instead of missing with it early in the count.”
Wolff, drafted in the sixth round last month, has allowed five hits and no earned runs in 111/3 innings. He has 14 strikeouts and four walks.
Wolff struck out Anthony Torres and Fernando Perez with two runners aboard to end the eighth inning.
“He’s really kind of a closer guy, but the seventh and eighth innings, for me, were the game,” Hulett said.
“Those last three innings are crucial in any ball game when it’s a one-run game, so I come in with the same mentality whenever I come in,” Wolff said.
The Indians scored their runs in the third, on Janluis Castro’s leadoff homer to the short porch in right field and Alberto Triunfel’s two-out single to center.
NWL teams will take their first day off of the season today. … Spokane will play 10 of its next 13 games on the road, beginning a five-game series Wednesday at South Division-leading Salem-Keizer. … Indians catcher Joe Jackson, a fifth-round selection by the Texas Rangers last month from The Citadel, is scheduled to make his Indians debut. He broke his finger during the first day of minicamp. … The Indians return home Monday for the first of three games against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Spokane is 3-0 against Tri-City this season.