There is one thing that is very clear to first-year Indians manager Matt Hagen.
The Indians have proved to him that they’re fighters.
It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride to the bottom of the Northwest League standings, but the Spokane Indians haven’t exhausted all hope quite yet.
“We can always come back with the bats that we have,” Hagen said. “We can explode at any time.”
The Indians definitely brought the big bats on Monday when they topped the Hillsboro Hops 6-3 at Avista Stadium to take the series 3-2.
But like most games this season, it was another fight to the finish.
The Hops (14-12) took the first lead of the game for the fifth time this series when Drew Ellis shot a home run over the left-field wall in the second inning.
But the Indians (10-16) answered quickly. Spokane second baseman Kole Enright drew a walk in the bottom of the frame with two outs.
Curtis Terry followed, working the count to 3-2 before knocking a high fly to the left-field warning track. Hops left fielder Yan Sanchez lost the ball in the sun and let the hit drop a foot from his glove.
The error sent Enright home to tie the score at 1 and allowed Terry a trip to third base. Kobie Taylor grounded out to third to end the inning.
Left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans issued two straight walks at the start of the third inning before catching Hillsboro’s Camden Duzenack on a check swing for Ragans’ third strikeout of the night.
Yan Sanchez knocked a short liner to center that sent home Hillsboro’s second run. Pavin Smith followed with another RBI single to center field, stretching Hillsboro’s lead to 3-1.
The Indians finally took the lead in a three-run third inning that began with a walk by Indians newcomer Yonny Hernandez. Hernandez, who arrived in Spokane Monday afternoon from Arizona, made his way to third on Miguel Aparicio’s chopper to right field and eventually scored on an infield out.
Andretty Cordero capped off the rally with a two-run home run on an inside curveball – Cordero’s favorite kind of pitch.
“All pitches inside are easy,” Cordero said through a translator. “High or low, it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re inside.”
His homer put Spokane on top 4-3.
But the Indians needed a little more breathing room against a team that sits behind Salem-Keizer for the second most hits in the Northwest League.
“That one-run lead is really scary, especially when you try to maintain it over five or six innings,” Hagen said.
The Indians brought their big bats again in the fifth when they piled on two more runs behind three hits. Spokane’s Chad Smith battled nine pitches and pushed a grounder through to right field for a leadoff single.
Cordero sent Smith all the way home on a double to deep center field. Cordero eventually scored again, when Melvin Novoa knocked a hard grounder that took a bad bounce over Hops third baseman Drew Ellis. The run gave the Indians a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
The Hops battled back and managed to load the bases with two outs in the eighth beginning with single to left field by Stephen Smith.
Hillsboro’s Billy Endris, who stepped in for Ellis after he was tossed in the sixth for arguing with home plate umpire Mitch Wilson over a called strikeout, reached base safely when Cordero missed Endris’ bouncer between third and shortstop.
Daulton Varsho swatted another single to right field to load the bases before relief pitcher Josh Advocate fanned the next batter on three consecutive strikes to end the inning.
The Indians outhit Hillsboro 8-7, a day after the Hops had tallied 16 hits at Avista Stadium. Chad Smith and Cordero led the Indians with a pair of hits apiece. Cordero’s third-inning sixth home run of the season – his third in three consecutive games – ties Boise’s Daniel Jipping for the most in the Northwest League.
Ragans (1-1) allowed four hits and fanned nine batters across six innings on Monday.
The Indians will have their first day off on Tuesday before they travel to Vancouver on Wednesday.
“The real test will be Vancouver,” Hagen said.
The Canadians, who swept Spokane in a three-game series earlier this season, currently lead the Northwest League North Division with a 16-10 record.
Hagen said the series win over Hillsboro on Monday will hopefully give his players some confidence that they can deliver against Vancouver.
“When we went to Boise, they were in first place when we got there. We took three out of five,” Hagen said. “And then we come back here … and play these guys (Hops) who were at first place at the time. And we take three out of five from them.
“I would hope that our boys are understanding that we can play with these teams that have gotten off to a better start than us.”
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