VANCOUVER, British Columbia – This morning, Brett Sports will maintain they still control the Spokane Indians, but if Michael Madsen isn’t listed as a partial owner, it could be considered a lie.
Madsen continued to dominate the Indians in Game 3 of the Northwest League Championship Series on Saturday, allowing one hit through 7 1/3 innings to give Vancouver a 6-0 win in front of 1,477 at Nat Bailey Stadium and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series, with a chance to win it all tonight.
The pitching duel between Madsen and Spokane ace Doug Mathis failed to materialize, as Mathis got roughed up in the first inning before settling down.
In his first two starts against the Indians, both against Mathis, Madsen was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, 15 strikeouts and seven hits allowed.
If it were possible, he improved Saturday night, retiring the first 13 Spokane batters, including six by strikeout, before John Mayberry Jr.’s bloop single just out of the reach of shortstop Justin Sellers.
“That’s what he’s done all year long,” Indians manager Greg Riddoch said of Madsen. “Good pitching beats good hitting, and that’s why they’ve won 46 games, because of their pitching.”
Madsen came back to retire eight more in a row before hitting Mayberry Jr. to lead off the eighth inning.
“He just locates his pitches, and he’s got three pretty solid pitches,” said Indians designated hitter Jonathan Higashi, who went 0 for 2 against Madsen with a walk. “He keeps the ball down, and anytime you do that, you’ll be effective.”
Spokane loaded the bases in the eighth with one out before Madsen left, but Canadians reliever Bradley Davis came on to whiff Julio Santana and Terry Blunt to escape.
Chad Boyd, Sellers and Jeff Baisley led off the bottom of the first with consecutive singles off Mathis, with Baisley’s single driving in Boyd and Sellers.
Haas Pratt looked like he was going to continue the string of hits, driving a ball deep to center, but Spokane center fielder Joe Kemp made a Willie Mays-esque catch with his back to the plate as he crashed into the wall.
Vancouver shook off the brief setback, and went back to work on Mathis.
Jose Garcia sliced a ball down the right-field line for an RBI triple, and Steve Kleen followed with an RBI double to make it 4-0 before Mathis settled down, striking out two Canadians to escape the inning
Mathis lasted five innings, only allowing two hits after the first-inning debacle.
“He was just fastball, fastball, fastball, and I don’t know why he was doing that,” Riddoch said. “He left the ball up and they whacked it. If he goes to his slider, which he always does, like in the second inning, there he is.”
It will be up to Broc Coffman (2-2, 2.99) to save the Indians’ season, as he goes in Game 4 against Vancouver’s Jimmy Shull (4-3, 2.47). Coffman has already been clutch for the Indians this year, as he went eight one-run, two-hit innings in a must-win game last Tuesday in Boise.
The team has made a habit of playing well with its back against the wall, and the Indians will have to do it again today.
“You know what, it seems like that’s our whole year – we’ve come back all year,” Higashi said. “(Today), we’re going to come out play and see what happens and hopefully we can push it to a Game 5.”
All-Star shortstop German Duran, who broke a blood vessel in his hand prior to an Aug. 28 game, then returned Monday and has now become sick, made the trip to British Columbia but did not play.
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