The Spokane Indians like to kid Tyler Sanchez that he only gets hits in the ninth inning and later.
The joke was on the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes on Friday as Sanchez made the ninth and 11th innings his domain.
Sanchez tied the Northwest League game at 3 with a two-out solo homer in the ninth and sent the Indians home as winners with a two-run shot in the 11th for a 5-3 decision before 6,853 at windy, dusty Avista Stadium.
“I do get my biggest hits in the ninth or later,” said Sanchez, Spokane’s catcher, who raised his batting average from .220 to .240. “I have five homers and every one came in the ninth or later, so I guess they’re pretty accurate with that.”
The Indians (7-9 second half) were one out away from being down 3-0 in the five-game series against the Volcanoes (10-6) when Sanchez stepped to the plate against Caleb Smith. The closer had been 6 for 6 in save opportunities.
Sanchez worked the count to 3-1 before unloading a high fly to left field that gained a boost from the stiff right-to-left wind that blew dust into the stadium all night.
“Looking fastball,” Sanchez said. “Looking for something up that I can drive.”
After the Indians left runners on first and second in the 10th against Smith, Jarret Leverett (0-3) relieved for the 11th. With one out and Leon Byrd on first base, Sanchez delivered again.
“I couldn’t even have imagined (another homer),” Sanchez said. “It was on a curveball nonetheless. I was just sitting dead-read, something up. I don’t care what it is. I’ll try to put a good swing on it and I hit that one pretty good. That was definitely a better swing.”
“The pitchers know the wind is blowing, too,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “They’re not throwing a lot of pitches inside. They tried to stay away all night and we tried to stay away. Fortunately, we finally caught up with a couple of them. At least Sanchez did.”
Thirteen of Sanchez’s 17 RBIs have come in the ninth and later.
“It was kind of a funky wind tonight,” Sanchez said. “It wasn’t necessarily completely out to left. It was a crosswind, blowing a lot of balls different ways. I just stuck to my approach. … I think both of them might have had a chance without the wind.”
The wind definitely knocked down two potential Indians homers in the fourth. LeDarious Clark and Diego Cedeno hit solid blasts to right field that stayed in the park because of the wind.
Dillon Tate, the Texas Rangers’ top selection during June’s Major League Baseball draft, was promoted to the Class A Hickory (North Carolina) Crawdads of the South Atlantic League. Tate made two appearances for Spokane, both one-inning starts on the road. He was scheduled to start for the Crawdads on Friday but was replaced because of poor weather.
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