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Fitzpatrick Gives Tribe Solid Relief Gets Spokane Out Of Seventh-Inning Jam To Record Long-Awaited Pitching Decision

Ken Fitzpatrick’s two-year wait ended Friday, but someone else had to tell him.

Fitzpatrick, Spokane’s third pitcher, ended a bases-loaded situation in the seventh inning as the Indians topped Eugene 6-3 at hot, crowded Seafirst Stadium.

Fitzpatrick (1-1) won for the first time since pitching for Springfield (Ill.) in 1995. He missed the ‘96 season after undergoing surgery on his right elbow, and saw his first action with the Indians on July 17.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pound right-hander worked an uneventful eighth inning before exiting. Because Spokane broke a 3-all tie with two runs in the seventh, Fitzpatrick was credited with the win.

Still, Fitzpatrick didn’t know the win was his until Friday’s starter, Corey Thurman, told him in the clubhouse.

“I didn’t realize it, either,” said Indians manager Jeff Garber. “He did an outstanding job. Getting out of that (seventh) inning was clutch; the most important part of the ballgame.”

A sold-out crowd of 7,162, Spokane’s third-best of the year, was also the most at Seafirst since July 18.

Spokane (37-27) remained five games behind Boise in the Northwest League’s North Division. Both teams have 12 games left, including a three-game series with each other in Boise, starting Tuesday.

Boise’s magic number is eight for winning its sixth division title in eight years. Any combination of eight Boise wins or Spokane losses will give the Hawks the crown.

Fitzpatrick relieved with two outs, after Aaron Carter’s second walk of the inning loaded the bases. Jeff Spencer, Eugene’s No. 3 hitter, grounded back to Fitzpatrick to end the threat.

“I’ve come in three or four times now with the bases loaded,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s the time I just go after the hitter.”

Fitzpatrick experiences slight soreness between appearances, but nothing dramatic. Ice, heat and exercises keep the elbow in shape.

“He was a little tentative his first couple of outings, but he has the aggressiveness back,” Garber said.

“I hear they want to make me a closer or set-up man,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what I want to do. That’s where I feel I belong.”

Thurman, who struck out nine, took a 3-1 lead into the sixth. He left after allowing three doubles and two runs in the inning.

Spokane’s two-run, go-ahead rally in the seventh off Ryan Greene (2-6) began with Joe Caruso’s one-out single and Dermal Brown’s subsequent double to left. Left fielder Greg Strickland of the Emeralds (26-38) misplayed the ball, allowing Caruso to score and moving Brown to third. Juan LeBron followed with a high popup that shortstop Brett Pierce couldn’t glove.

Rich Boring earned his sixth save by retiring the final two batters with two runners aboard in the ninth.

Spokane’s Jeremy Hill went 3 for 4 with two runs scored. Caruso was 2 for 2 with one run and one RBI. Indians center fielder Goefrey Tomlinson singled and doubled to move his hitting streak to a club-best 13 games, but left in the eighth when he aggravated his hamstring. Garber expects him to miss two games.

Spokane’s Kris Wilson (2-3, 4.99 ERA) starts tonight against Richard Thieme (4-2, 5.55). The middle game of the five-game series starts at 7:05.

, DataTimes

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