Leon Byrd had the big hit Sunday, but he quickly deflected the attention to the Spokane Indians bullpen.
Byrd’s one-out, two-run single during a three-run eighth inning sent the Indians into the Northwest League All-Star Break with back-to-back wins after a 4-1 decision over Eugene at Avista Stadium.
“Hats off to our bullpen today,” said the 21-year-old Indians shortstop. “They really won the game. I don’t know how many innings of scoreless ball they threw. They definitely showed some guts out there.”
Tyler Davis, Jason Richman, Dan Scheibe, Adam Choplick (2-0) and Ashton Perritt (first save) combined for four innings of scoreless relief in place of effective starter Joe Palumbo.
Richman especially saved the day when he entered a 1-all game in the seventh with Eugene runners on first and third and nobody out. Richman kept the ball in the infield with a groundout to second base, a grounder to Byrd to catch Ricardo Marcano trying to score, and an unassisted groundout to first.
“What a great job for him to pitch through that and get out with no runs,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said of Richman. “Usually, we’re just trying to get out of there and minimize the inning. If we give up one run, OK, but let’s not give up two or three.”
Choplick struck out Kevonte Mitchell with the bases loaded to end the eighth. After Spokane scored its three runs in the eighth, Choplick served up a two-out double and walk in the ninth. Hulett called upon Perritt for the final out, a pop foul to catcher Tyler Sanchez.
“Choplick battled,” Hulett said. “He didn’t have his best command, but he made enough pitches in the zone and got guys out. … He was losing the zone (in the ninth) … and I just thought it was time for Perritt to get his shot at the end of a game.”
Center fielder Darius Day, 3 for 4 on the day, started Spokane’s eighth-inning rally with a single to left field.
“I was just trying to get on base,” Day said. “A lot the guys were popping up out in front against the lefty (Tyler Peitzmeier), so I was just trying to stay up the middle and that’s exactly what I did. A lot of things were going my way today.”
Yeyson Yrizarri dropped a soft double near the line in left field to move Day to third. Eugene intentionally walked Dean Long with one out, and Byrd jumped on the first pitch from Peitzmeier (2-1).
“I knew it was going to be a hit, but I wasn’t sure if the shortstop would get to the ball,” Byrd said. “It was huge to get two RBIs right there to get us a little cushion. But right when I hit it, I knew it was going to get at least one guy in.”
“I don’t have any trouble with guys swinging at the first pitch if they’re ready and they put a good swing on it,” Hulett said.
Ti’Quan Forbes added insurance with a two-out RBI on an infield single.
Eugene (4-3 second half) won the series 3-2, but Spokane (3-4) headed to the break with a lift.
The All-Star Game between the NWL and Pioneer League is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Avista Stadium.
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