Northwest League pitchers know the book on Fernando Vivili is to throw him a steady diet of breaking balls.
Vivili edited that book Monday night, waiting for the perfect breaking pitch to make his breakthrough.
Vivili hit a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to shock the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and give the Spokane Indians a 4-3 win to open a five-game set, the final regular-season series at Avista Stadium.
After swinging at a 3-1 breaking ball in the dirt from Eury Sanchez (3-3), Vivili slammed the next offering beyond the left-field fence for his third homer of the season and his first since July 6.
“I was trying to get a good pitch, something up in the zone, and get a good swing on it,” Vivili said through interpreter Salomon Manriquez, Spokane’s coach. … “I was looking for (the breaking ball) because I knew it was coming.”
“We had runners on base, so you always have a chance to win the game if you make contact right there,” Manriquez said. “Vivili is a big guy with power. He’s had trouble with the breaking pitch, but the guy threw him five or six in a row and he finally made the adjustment.”
Jose Trevino started the ninth-inning rally with a double into the left-field corner, his club-leading 21st. Luke Tendler struck out on a 3-2 pitch and Josh Morgan walked. Sanchez fanned Isiah Kiner-Falefa before Vivili, 0 for 3 in the game and batting .208, came to the plate.
The comeback wiped away a brilliant pitching performance from Volcanoes starter Jason Forjet, who was seeking his league-high eighth victory. Forjet allowed five hits and no earned runs in seven innings.
Spokane starter Nick Gardewine, just named NWL Pitcher of the Week, was equal to the task, allowing one hit and no earned runs in five innings, with six strikeouts.
S-K scratched together a run in the first as leadoff batter Johneshwy Fargas walked, stole second base and scored when catcher Trevino threw high on a steal of third base.
The Indians got the equalizer in the sixth. Eduard Pinto led off with a single, took second on Forjet’s wild throw on a pickoff attempt, moved to third on Diego Cedeno’s perfect sacrifice and scored on Seth Spivey’s sacrifice fly to center.
The Volcanoes snapped the tie on Skyler Ewing’s one-out, bases-loaded walk on a close 3-2 pitch from Luis Pollorena during an at-bat that had two other near-strikes ruled as balls by home-plate umpire Richard Genera. Indians manager Tim Hulett visited the mound after the walk, waiting for Genera to join the crowd before offering his opinion. Hulett was ejected, leading to Manriquez taking over as manager.
“I think the umpire was missing some pitches in a crucial situation,” Manriquez said. … “He should have called those pitches strikes and it would have been a totally different game.”
The loss hurt the Volcanoes’ playoff chances as S-K (36-33 overall, 18-13 second half) fell three games behind South Division first-half champion Hillsboro in the current standings and two games behind Boise (38-31) in the overall standings. Spokane (37-32, 12-19) won the North’s first-half title and opens postseason Sept. 2 on the road.