Have no fear, Indians manager Tim Hulett said, Spokane’s season has not gone south.
But the South sure has gone after the Spokane Indians.
Grant Heyman’s two-run homer capped a four-run first inning Thursday and the Hillsboro Hops held off the Indians 5-3 in Game 2 of the five-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.
Spokane, the North Division’s first-half champion, lost its third consecutive game and owns a 6-12 record since July 14.
A big reason for the drop-off is the Indians’ 12-15 record against teams from the South Division, including the Hops. Spokane started the season 8-0 against the South but has dropped 15 of 19 since June 25.
“There’s a little bit of an expectation of a letdown after winning the first half,” Hulett said. “It gives us a chance to give guys who weren’t in (the lineup) a little more chance to play. … We still expect those guys to get the job done, but I feel like we’re in a pretty good place.”
Hillsboro (29-19) tied Vancouver for the league’s best overall record. The Indians, who started the season 22-8, are one game behind at 28-20.
Spokane has started its eight-game homestand 2-3. Until this homestand, the Indians hadn’t dropped two consecutive games at Avista. They’ve now dropped three straight and are 16-7 on their home field.
Throw out the Hops’ first four batters of the game against Derek Thompson (4-5) and Spokane dominated. Taylor Ratliff reached on an infield single, followed by Steve Nyisztor’s RBI double and Kevin Cron’s RBI single. Cleanup batter Heyman homered to left-center, his fifth of the season and his 31st and 32nd RBIs, ranking him fifth in the league.
“(Thompson) … sure didn’t make his pitches like he had been,” Hulett said. “The rest of the night, he was pretty good. He missed his spots early in the game and they made him pay for it.”
Thompson, who hadn’t lost since dropping to 1-4 on July 5, got in a groove after the 4-0 deficit and struck out five consecutive batters.
The Indians gave him two runs back in the bottom of the first as Eduard Pinto led off with a double and Luke Tendler followed with a double for RBI No. 34, right ahead of Heyman among the league leaders.
The rally stalled when Jose Trevino hit into a 4-6-3 double play, although Tendler scored on the play. Spokane grounded into three double plays, including Charles Moorman’s inning-ender in the eighth when the Indians had runners on first and second.
Indians outfielder Pepe Cardona made a huge baserunning blunder in the sixth, attempting to go from first to third on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s one-out single to right. Zach Esquerra threw him out, which became more damaging when the next two Indians reached base.
“When the ball was hit to right, (Cardona) kind of held up because it was up in the air,” Hulett said. “That should have been a dead giveaway that he should have held up at second. Sometimes rookie mistakes get you.”
Indians reliever Shane McCain pitched three superb innings to run his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 19 and lower his earned-run average to 0.42.
“I try not to pay attention to (the ERA),” McCain said. “I’ve been fortunate with great defense and great pitch calling by my catchers. I’m just throwing the pitches where they’re supposed to go.”