The Spokane Indians had gone nine games and 277 at-bats without a home run this Northwest League season.
Who better to snap that streak than a leadoff hitter who had hit two homers in 640 at-bats during his professional career?
Center fielder Chris Garia hit two solo homers to right field Sunday afternoon, leading off the bottom of the first inning and with two out in the second, to power the Indians past Boise 8-6 at Avista Stadium.
“During (pregame) stretching I said to my teammates that I was going to hit a home run and it happened,” said Garia, a 20-year-old from Willemstad, Curacao, who played for the Indians last season and is in his fourth year as a pro.
“I’m just glad we got off the goose egg,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “I didn’t know if we’d hit a home run all year or not.”
Garia hit both homers off Duane Underwood (0-1), the first on a changeup and the second on a curveball. The second homer hit the foul pole.
His two previous pro homers were a grand slam in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and a shot against Boise last season.
The Indians (4-6) won their third consecutive game, all within a 24-hour period. Spokane swept Boise (4-6) in a doubleheader Saturday night after losing the opener of the five-game series 4-1 on Friday.
Justin Sprenger was the losing pitcher in Friday’s game after he served up Yasiel Balaguert’s three-run homer in the eighth. Sprenger atoned for that inning on Sunday.
Sprenger entered with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth after the Hawks had scored one run off third Indians pitcher Richard Alvarez.
“When I was coming in from the bullpen I checked the board and saw (no outs) up there,” said the recent draftee from Tennesse Wesleyan. “But you can’t be scared going out there.”
Sprenger worked the count to 3-1 against Jose Dore before the Boise pinch hitter struck out swinging for the first out.
“I was like, ‘Don’t walk the guy,’” Sprenger said. “That’s the worst thing that could happen. Coming out of the pen, you have to get those strikes.”
The next batter, Danny Lockhart, swung at two pitches – the second one in the dirt – before grounding into a 4-6-3 game-ending double play.
“I really didn’t want to use Sprenger because he just pitched a day-and-a-half ago, but we had to and he came in and got the job done,” Hulett said.
Through five innings, it didn’t appear the Indians would need late-game heroics. Spokane led 7-1 and had outhit Boise 8-4. Cam Schiller had doubled, scored twice and driven in a run; Ryan Cordell had collected his first two doubles of the season and scored both times; and Janluis Castro had singled twice and driven in three runs.
But the Hawks outhit Spokane 10-1 during the final four innings. Boise scored four runs in the sixth on five hits, and battered Alvarez for three hits and a walk in the ninth before Sprenger entered.
“I didn’t think the last outing was in my head, but it really was,” Sprenger said. “I kind of guess it helped me a little bit going out there and not letting that happen again.”
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