Vancouver came into Monday’s game with Spokane last in the Northwest League in homers and fifth in batting average.
It has the best record in the NWL because of one thing â€“ a pitching staff by far the best in the league.
So you’ve got to make the Canadians earn every run they get.
Literally, Vancouver only earned a few, scoring eight unearned runs on the way to a 13-2 blowout of the Indians in front of 3,569 at Avista Stadium. The Indians committed three errors and tied a league record by hitting six batters.
“You take a look at the stats on their side â€“ number one in pitching,” Indians manager Greg Riddoch said. “Pitching and defense wins games.”
It didn’t take long, as Vancouver (36-18) scored five times in the top of the second off Doug Mathis (3-6), Spokane’s most consistent starter.
A Julio Santana error, a single and a walk loaded the bases for the Canadians against Mathis, and after a weak popout, ninth-place hitter Justin Sellers ripped a two-run double down the left-field line.
An RBI groundout gave Vancouver a three-run lead, and Mathis hit a batter, putting runners on the corners with two outs. The Canadians tried to pick up another run with a double steal, and Santana was credited with another error when he failed to cover second, and catcher Taylor Teagarden’s throw bounced into center field, scoring a run.
Steve Kleen finished off the inning with an RBI single. Only one of Vancouver’s five runs in the inning was earned.
The three Spokane errors give the team 81 on the year, or 1 1/2 a game.
Mathis lasted four innings, allowing five hits and only the one earned run, but five total.
Vancouver hurt the Indians (24-30) with a pair of struggling hitters who combined for seven hits and six RBIs, Sellers (previously batting .235) and Ty Bubalo (.181).
In probably the only bright spot on an otherwise bleak evening, Teagarden continued to hammer the ball, hitting his fourth homer of the year in the third inning.
Canadians starter Mike Madsen, coming into the game with the league’s best ERA at 1.38 and pitching 52 innings without allowing a homer, fell behind Teagarden 2-0 before throwing a waist-high fastball inside, which Teagarden drilled over the left-field fence.
For the 2005 third-round draft choice out of the University of Texas, it’s part of an 8-for-17 (.471) streak, during which he’s hit all four of his homers â€“ all coming after a 1-for-18 start to his professional career.
“I’m just getting my timing back, getting used to the wooden bat and getting to play every day again. I’m starting to get back to where I was during the college season,” said Teagarden, who missed six weeks while negotiating his contract with the Rangers. “It just takes repetition. You’ve got to get used to the atmosphere, the guys, the coaches, the routine, the pregame stuff, and everything just starts to come back.”
Madsen (5-0) went six innings, allowing five hits and two runs. He struck out nine and walked none.
“He’s the best in the league,” Riddoch said. “He changes speeds, has control of three pitches. We had two hits in eight innings against him before. Good pitching beats good hitting, and our hitting’s pretty decent.”
The six hit batters tied the Northwest League record set by Bellingham against Southern Oregon on Aug. 7, 1990. â€¦ Vancouver’s record of 78-52 (.600) since the beginning of last season is the best in the NWL. â€¦ Tonight’s probable starters in the fourth game of the five-game series: Vancouver RHP James Shull (2-1, 2.91) vs. Spokane LHP Broc Coffman (1-2, 3.92).
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