Sometimes a small tweak nets big results.
Tanner Gardner continued his torrid series with a two-run home run, raising his total to 15 runs batted in over his last four games, and the Spokane Indians won their fourth straight game Sunday, topping Salem-Keizer 6-3.
The victory allowed Spokane (18-13) to remain a game back of Vancouver (19-12) in the Northwest League standings with seven to play. The Indians complete their series with Salem-Keizer tonight then play three games at Tri-City before closing out the regular season with a three-game series with Vancouver at Avista Stadium.
The Canadians posted a 5-2 win over Boise, their third straight victory.
“Hey, we want to keep playing baseball just as long as we can,” manager Kenny Holmberg said. “We want the 2018 season to last just as long as we can make it.”
Gardner, a former Texas Tech Red Raider, has done his part to make that happen in the first four games of a five-game set with the Volcanoes, belting a grand slam and driving in eight runs Thursday night, hitting his fourth homer of the season Saturday and his fifth Sunday with a two-run shot to right field in the third inning.
“The hitting instructor came through here a few days ago and we made a few little tweaks to what I was doing,” Gardner said. “I’m just seeing the ball real well right now and I have maybe the two best hitters in the league in front of me (Curtis Terry and Diosbel Arias). I’m not sure the average baseball fan understands just how big of a deal that is. But it means I get some really good pitches to hit.”
Tai Tiedemann (3-2) worked five strong innings, allowing three earned runs while scattering six hits and striking out a half dozen.
“For me, the biggest challenge has been the mental part of the game,” Tiedemann said. “I don’t want to get in a place where I’m psyching myself out before I ever take the mound, worrying about things like streaks and things like that. I was able to make some good pitches. By the third time (Salem-Keizer) was seeing me they started to make some adjustments and started hitting the ball in the air, but our defense did a good job and our bullpen has been outstanding.”
J.P. Martinez set the tone for the game, opening the home half of the first inning with a bunt single on the first pitch he saw, catching the Volcanoes flat-footed.
“That was just a good job of reading the situation and taking advantage of what they were giving us by Julio Pablo,” Holmberg said. “It’s all about getting on base and trusting the guys coming up after you.”
Sherten Apostel, getting the start at third, ripped a single and Arias picked up the RBI with a single to right for a 1-0 lead.
Salem-Keizer tied the score in the second. After giving up a lead-off double to Aaron Bond, Tiedemann got Robinson Medrano to hit a weak, broken-bat grounder to Arias, who charged in to field the ball cleanly but threw high over Terry’s head to allow the run to score.
Scott Kapers laced a double into the left-field corner to score a run in the second and Martinez plated a second with an ground out to make it 3-1.
Tiedemann gave up a two-run home run to Bond in the third to tie the score at three, but Arias opened the bottom of the inning with a single and Gardner ripped a line drive into the right-field bleachers to put Spokane ahead for good.
Arias atoned for his earlier error by making a tough stop on a ground ball at his feet and turning it into a double play in the sixth.
“That was a beautiful double play and a tough play to get it all started,” Holmberg said. “We don’t like to see errors, but I like the way our guys are concentrating and playing the game right now.”
Martinez opened the home half of the sixth inning with a triple off the base of the wall in right-center field. Apostel followed with a walk and Martinez scampered home when Terry grounded into a double play.
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