In a battle of first-half champions, the Spokane Indians looked like they angered the baseball gods as they were humbled 9-1 Wednesday night by the Hillsboro Hops.
The Hops, of Hillsboro, Oregon, produced timely hitting, received some help from the Indians’ defense and got a dominating performance from starter Ryan Doran to cruise to the easy win.
“We haven’t had many games like this,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “I hope we don’t have many more, either.”
Indians starter Richelson Pena got the loss to go 4-3 on the year. The five earned runs he gave up Wednesday boosted his ERA from 2.84 to 3.40.
While his numbers looked ugly, Pena actually pitched rather well. He got into trouble in the top of the second inning when he gave up a double to Stryker Trahan.
He then struck out Zach Esquerra on three pitches. With the next batter, Pena got Jordan Parr to ground to Indians third baseman Juremi Profar. Instead of immediately throwing to first, Profar unsuccessfully tried to hold Trahan at second base.
By the time Profar threw to first base, Parr was safe at first and Trahan had made it to third. The Hops’ Nate Robertson then hit a double that scored both Trahan and Parr to make it 2-0 Hops.
“Profar made a bad decision. He should have just taken the out,” Hulett said. “I don’t have to talk to him. As soon as he made the play, he knew he should have gone across the diamond.”
The next mistake hurt even worse.
It remained 2-0 until the top of the sixth inning. After striking out the first batter, Hillsboro’s Kevin Cron hit a single to right field.
Pena then induced Grant Heyman to fly out. But Pena then hit Trahan with a pitch, giving the Hops two base runners.
Facing Esquerra, Pena got two quick strikes before he put a ball over the plate that Esquerra smashed for a three-run home run.
“All he had to do was bounce it in. The guy was in swing mode,” Hulett said. “If (Pena) had it to do over again, he would have bounced it in there 10 more times.
“If he makes that pitch, we go into the seventh inning down only 2-0.”
One of the rare bright spots for the Indians came from the defense of 20-year-old center fielder Pepe Cardona, of San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico.
One of the Hops batters hit a line drive that Cardona tracked down and snagged with a diving catch. Cardona later scored the Indians’ only run, in the bottom of the seventh inning off a double by Fernando Vivili.
“I like to dive,” Cardona said with a smile. “For me, that’s the best part is to dive and make a great play.”
The Indians fell to 3-6 in the second half and 29-19 overall. With the win, the Hops now have the same overall record, 29-19, in the Northwest League South.
The Indians stay at home tonight to face the Hops again at 6:30 at Avista Stadium.
“We just have to keep playing hard,” Cardona said. “With baseball, you never know what is going to happen. The only thing you can control is how hard you play.”