It might be a cliché, but it is true. A baseball season is like a roller coaster ride. There will be ups and downs that will cause screams of joy and screams of fear as you navigate from beginning to end.
It was thrilling and wild in the beginning of the season as the Spokane Indians won six of their first nine, but then the ride got scary and terrifying as they lost nine in a row.
With five home runs Thursday and 32 runs in the last three games, the Indians are on the upswing of the ride again after pouncing on Tri-City starter Buzz Vargas for three home runs in a seven run fifth inning that powered Spokane to a 14-6 win at Avista Stadium in front of 4,164.
“The biggest thing you can do,” manager Greg Riddoch said, “is keep your personality. When we’re winning, we have to stay the same as when we’re losing.”
As the ride was beginning to spiral out of control, the team held on tightly waiting for the hard part to pass and the ride to straighten out again.
“The team stayed positive until we ended the streak and now we’ve won three straight,” catcher Lizahio Baez said in Spanish after the victory.
Baez, a switch hitter who went 3 for 5, hit a home run from each side of the plate for the first time in his professional career as he hit one in the second off Vargas from the left side and one from the right side off David Beachtold in the eighth.
Baez said he told some of his teammates before his at at-bat in the eighth that he felt good about hitting one from each side.
“And then I got a fastball right over the plate…” said Baez, who couldn’t help but smile as he retold his fifth home run of the season.
In the fifth inning, Phillip Hawke and John Mayberry Jr. went back-to-back with home runs and then Freddie Thon joined in with a solo shot of his own off Vargas, who allowed nine runs on 11 hits – including four home runs – in 4 2/3 innings to get his second loss of the season.
“He (Vargas) had a 1.67 ERA, 10 less hits than innings pitched (17 hits to 28 innings pitched) and we get to him?” said Riddoch, who hadn’t forgotten that Tri-City was the team that started the Indians on their losing streak. “That’s a team that was hot when we went there and is down now. Good stuff kind of snowballs and so does the negative ones.”
After a two-run home run from Baez in the second gave the Indians a 2-0 lead, starter Broc Coffman gave up three runs and the lead to the Dust Devils in the fifth inning, which set up the stage for the Indians’ half of the fifth.
Julio Santana led off the inning with a short blooper that landed in the middle of three Dust Devils in right field. As the right fielder, Daniel Carte, kicked the ball towards center field, Santana hustled to second for a leadoff double. German Duran then drove in Santana with a triple to tie the game.
After Steve Murphy broke up the tie with a fielder’s choice grounder to first base, Hawke added to the Indians’ lead by driving the first pitch he saw from Vargas, a fastball middle-in, just over the right field wall for his first homerun with the Indians.
Mayberry Jr. followed Hawke with a solo shot to left field and, two batters latter, Thon did the same.
“Baseball is a game of momentum and it just started snowballing for him (Vargas) and he began to leave pitches over the plate,” Hawke said.
Before batting practice, hitting coach Mark Whitten was hammering home runs off the tee over the centerfield wall. Steve Murphy and Joe Kemp attempted, but failed, to duplicate their coach’s feat. When told by players that he couldn’t clear the scoreboard, Whitten, on his first try, blasted a ball – an estimated 475 feet – over the scoreboard… . Spokane’s German Duran was a homer short of hitting for the cycle.
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