The Northwest League began the second half of its split season Tuesday night, giving teams such as the Spokane Indians and Vancouver Canadians a chance to qualify for postseason with first-half winners Everett and Salem-Keizer.
Vancouver, the league’s two-time defending champion, began its quest by handing the ball to the player most responsible for the Canadians’ league-leading team earned-run average.
Right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski (4-1) held Spokane to an infield single during six shutout innings as the Canadians blanked Spokane 2-0 at Avista Stadium. Gabryszwski lowered his ERA to 0.99 for 45 2/3 innings.
“I can’t think of a quality at-bat off of him,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “He has a great changeup and he can throw the ball on the outside part of the plate at will. If you’re up there to pull the ball on him, you’re going to make a lot of outs.”
Indians pitchers Kelvin Vasquez, Abel De Los Santos (1-1) and Justin Sprenger combined for 15 strikeouts, 10 more than the Canadians’ pitchers, but Gabryszwski, Alonzo Gonzalez and Chuck Ghysels (fifth save) limited Spokane to two singles and one double.
“I just got ground balls,” said Gabryszwski, who struck out two and walked none. “I did what I needed to do and I got my outs.”
The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Gabryszwski in the fifth round in 2011 out of Crosby (Texas) High School. Gabryszwski gave up a scholarship to Lamar University and has played for the Blue Jays’ rookie teams in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues the past two summers.
His only average outing this season came last Thursday when he allowed seven hits and two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against Eugene. It was the only time in eight starts that he’s allowed more than one earned run in a game. He has 24 strikeouts and three walks this season.
“In high school, I was a strikeout guy,” Gabryszwski said. “If you can hit 88 in high school you can blow it by guys, but you get here and the whole mind game changes.”
Vasquez walked five batters and threw 42 balls in 82 pitches over 3 2/3 innings, but he left with the game still scoreless.
“Vasquez didn’t have good stuff,” Hulett said. “We kept asking him, ‘Are you hurt?’ … He got the first and second outs of the innings pretty quickly and all of a sudden he would lose it.”
Eight of the 10 outs De Los Santos recorded were strikeouts, but he allowed Mike Reeves’ two-out RBI double to right-center in the fifth and L.B. Dantzler’s one-out solo homer to right-center in the seventh.
“He’s been hurt on his changeup, especially in this park to lefties, because his changeup cuts into them a little bit,” Hulett said. “We’d rather see him throw a sinker away and make them hit it out the other way.”
Ryan Cordell gave the fans a momentary thrill in the bottom of the ninth with a long foul ball to right on a 3-2 count with two out and Janluis Castro on first. Ghysels struck out Cordell on the next pitch.