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Defense lets Indians down in 8-1 loss to Vancouver

By Josh Horton jhorton@spokeman.com

After complimenting his team for its defense in the Spokane Indians’ shutout win over the Vancouver Canadians in game two of the series Saturday night, Tim Hulett wasn’t as impressed on Sunday.

“We played two errorless games, but this is just one of those games where we didn’t make the plays,” Hulett said.

The Indians committed five errors, four of which were in the first four innings, and Spokane was whacked 8-1 by Vancouver in its Northwest League opening series finale at Avista Stadium.

Indians’ starter Nick Green gave up two runs in four innings, but none of them were earned. He scattered three hits and struck out six in his season debut, but it was tainted due to sloppy defense.

Hulett said Green struggled with letting things out of his control get to his head last season, when he posted a 7.11 ERA in 10 appearances in Spokane. Sunday’s effort was a big step in the 21-year-old right hander’s development, according to Hulett.

“You got to work on a lot of things in this game, but the mental side is really one of the biggest parts you have to get down,” Green said.

Spokane’s bullpen couldn’t keep the Indians within striking distance, as five Indians’ relievers surrendered six earned runs during the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to put the game out of reach. The Indians scored their only run on a sacrifice fly from Alex Kowalczyk in the third inning, scoring Seth Spivey.

The Indians offense generated only one run on 11 hits and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s hard to get 11 hits and only score one run,” said Hulett, whose team went 5 for 29 with runners in scoring position in the series. “We had a lot of opportunities early in the game, and hit the ball hard with two outs and just didn’t get the ball to fall. Could have made the difference in the game.”

Charles LeBlanc went 3 for 4 with a double after going hitless in his first two games to highlight the Indians’ offense.

“I was really pumped about it,” LeBlanc said of his three-hit performance. “I just need to get back into it. I haven’t seen live pitching in about a month and a half.”

While LeBlanc struggled early in the season, it was refreshing for Hulett to see him get going on Sunday.

“Now we know why he led the ACC in hitting,” Hulett said. “It takes a while for these guys to get their feet wet and their confidence playing the professional game and feeling like they belong … three hits makes everyone feel good about themselves.”

The Indians begin a eight-game road trip on Monday, starting with a three-game series with Tri-City followed by a five-game series in Eugene.

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