After sweating through walk-off wins on Thursday and Sunday, Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett confided that he’d love to finally win a game by four or five runs.
The Indians answered their skipper’s wish on Monday, pounding out seven extra-base hits during an 8-3 win over the Hillsboro Hops at Avista Stadium.
Spokane won the Northwest League season-opening series 3-2 by winning the final two games from the defending league champions.
“The thing that I really liked is that we added on late in the game, which makes it easier,” Hulett said. “A 5-3 game is a whole lot different. You get a guy on and some guy pops it and it’s a tie. Good job by the offense in still putting some runs up.”
The Indians collected a season-high 13 hits, with five players contributing two hits apiece. The biggest offensive stars were Darius Day, whose bases-clearing triple highlighted a four-run second inning, and new arrival Connor McKay, who hit a solo homer in the seventh for a 6-3 lead and added an RBI single in the eighth.
“I was just fortunate enough to be able to play and have the opportunity to be here,” said McKay, a nondrafted free agent from the University of Kansas who arrived in Spokane on Sunday. “The team did all the work and I was just fortunate to be good swings on the ball and contribute to the win.”
“He swung the bat well tonight,” Hulett said of McKay. “He looked really good. He has good hands, very good hands.”
Day, who also doubled in the sixth, jumped on a fastball from Hops starter Jeferson Mejia (0-1) in the second inning and nearly had a grand slam.
“It was a 1-2 count, which is normally a changeup or breaking ball count, so he just went with the fastball and I just took advantage of it,” said Day, who is hitting .400 (6 for 15) to start the season. “I thought I had (the grand slam) as I came out of the box. I missed it a couple of feet to the left, so I’ll just take it as it is.”
Every Indians run came with two outs.
“It shows that the guys have a good idea of what they’re trying to do and not trying to too much with two outs, just trying to get the guy in,” Hulett said. “We’ll take that every time.”
Indians starter Cody Palmquist struggled through 3 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and walking four. Palmquist threw 27 pitches in the first inning but escaped a bases-loaded jam with a three-pitch strikeout of Gerard Hernandez.
Spokane staked Palmquist to a 4-0 lead, but he surrendered two runs in the fourth and had runners on first and second when Hulett summoned Omarlin Lopes (1-0).
Lopez ended the inning with two strikeouts and ended up retiring all eight batters he faced.
“We don’t really put guys in roles, but we know what he brings to the table,” Hulett said of Lopez. “He’s a strike thrower. He goes after guys. Our only question was that he’s a little young and how was he going to be? His first outing (one inning Saturday) was really insignificant … but today I put him in the fire and he did a great job.”
The Indians will begin a three-game series at Avista tonight against the North Division-leading Everett AquaSox (4-1).
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