EUGENE – The Eugene Emeralds finished 14 games below .500 in the regular season, the worst record in the Northwest League. None of that matters in the playoffs.
Three Emeralds pitchers limited the Spokane Indians to four hits and Eugene won 4-0 in Game 2 of the best-of-five Northwest League Championship Series at PK Park on Monday.
Never before in league history has a team come back from an 0-2 championship series deficit to win the title.
Game 3 is Tuesday at 7:05 in Eugene. The potential five-game series is being played at PK Park as Avista Stadium is unavailable due to the Spokane County Fair. Spokane played as the home team in Games 1 and 2.
Not that the Indians had many opportunities, but what they had they squandered – going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and stranding eight.
Spokane went in order in the sixth through ninth innings, the last 13 Indians batters coming up empty.
The Indians sent Yerry Rodriguez to the hill. Promoted at midseason from the Texas Rangers rookie-level Arizona League affiliate, Rodriguez was scintillating during the regular season, posting a 3-0 record in four starts with a 1.82 ERA, striking out 27 – and walking just five – in 24 1/3 innings.
Rodriguez didn’t fare as well in his division series start against Everett, where he coughed up three runs on five hits and four walks over four innings.
The 20-year-old Dominican got into trouble right away. With one down in the first Nelson Velazquez reached on an infield single and Luke Reynolds walked.
Game 1 hero Levi Jordan ripped a ground ball down the left field line for a double to plate both runners.
Rodriguez picked up a strikeout, but hung a breaking ball to Grant Fennell and he slapped it into center for a single to score Jordan and provide Eugene an early 3-0 lead.
With one down in the bottom half, J.P. Martinez lined a double to the left field corner and Curtis Terry walked. But Diosbel Arias lined out and pitcher Jack Patterson made a strong thrown to nab Sherten Apostel on a “swinging bunt.”
Rodriguez had a better time of it in the second and third, allowing single base runners in each.
Meanwhile, the Indians bats were cold, as Patterson allowed a one-out walk in the second but then retired five straight.
The Indians got something going with two down in the fourth, as back-to-back singles by Tanner Gardner and Francisco Ventura put runners on the corners for Starling Joseph, who walked on four pitches to load the bases.
But Patterson came back to strike out Tyler Depreta-Johnson looking at a curveball.
After the tough start, Rodriguez really got into a groove. He struck out the side in the fourth, then picked up two more Ks to start the fifth before being lifted at 83 pitches by manager Kenny Holmberg.
All told, Rodriguez allowed three runs on six hits and one with with seven strikeouts.
Martinez lined a single with one down in the fifth, but Terry bounced out and with two down Arias walked on a full count. Apostel worked out of a hole, but swung through a curveball from reliever Eugenio Palma to strand two and end the threat.
Those were the last base runners the Indians had on the night.
Indians reliever Tai Tiedemann retired the side in order in the sixth, including a pair of strikeouts.
Caleb Knight doubled to lead off the seventh for Eugene. Tiedemann struck out Luis Vazquez, but a passed ball by Ventura allowed Knight to move up a base.
It cost the Indians as Andy Weber’s routine fly out turned into a sacrifice fly RBI and the deficit grew to 4-0.
Tiedemann worked his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth. In 3 1/3 innings he gave up one run on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts.