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Spokane Indians stay atop North Division race with win over Everett

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 2, 2017, 10:38 p.m.

Tyler Phillips wasn’t quite on his A-game Saturday.

But it wasn’t the postseason hunt that had Phillips feeling off on the mound. It was his throat.

“I just wanted to die,” said Phillips who has been fighting strep throat this week. “I had Lu (Jacobsen, Indians pitcher) get me cold patches and put them on my forehead. I felt like I had a fever.”

Even with Spokane fighting for the final playoff spot, Phillips said it was his body that was causing the only worry Saturday night. In fact, Phillips said the rest of the team didn’t feel any nerves ahead of the Indians’ 3-2 win over the Everett AquaSox.

And neither did Phillips, apparently, who fanned 12 of Everett’s batters in seven innings, the most of any Indians pitcher this season.

“Phillips was just outstanding tonight,” Indians manager Matt Hagen said. “He did a great job.”

The win keeps the Indians (22-15) one game atop the North Division second-half standings with one game to go over Vancouver (21-16), which beat Tri-City 2-0. Tri-City (20-17) cannot win the second half title, but can still go to the playoffs.

Since Vancouver won the first half, Spokane must win the second-half title outright to qualify for the playoffs because Tri-City would hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a better overall record.

Phillips said the team might get some butterflies heading into Sunday’s season finale against Everett, but they’re still confident that they’ll put on a good show.

“We’re fighters,” Phillips said. “The pressure might be there, but we’re just going out there having fun.”

The pressure to take the home the win Saturday might have crept up on the Indians early in the night when Everett’s Chris Torres sent the first pitch of the game over the right-field fence.

But the Indians powered back and made their mark on the board in the third inning, beginning with Nick Kaye taking a pitch in his right leg. Kaye moved to third on Cristian Inoa’s double off the left-field wall and scored on Aparicio’s grounder to left.

Inoa tried to score, but the cutoff throw made him retreat into a rundown. He was eventually put out by the third baseman, and Aparicio ended up on third. Aparicio later scored on Matt Whatley’s second double of the night for a 2-1 lead.

The Indians scored again in the fourth. Curtis Terry singled on a short line drive to center, but center fielder Ronald Rosario misjudged the bounce and the ball got by him. Terry moved to third on the error and then scored on a wild pitch by AquaSox starter Jose Santiago, improving Spokane’s lead to 3-1.

Everett picked up a run on David Banuelos’ fourth home run of the season in the seventh inning.

Phillips earned the win, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings. His 12-strikeout night beats Cole Ragans’ previous best of 10 strikeouts on Aug. 18 against Vancouver.

Alex Speas followed Phillips with four strikeouts and only one walk in two innings of relief for the Indians.

Whatley led Spokane at the plate with a pair of doubles. The Indians tallied five hits against Everett, just enough to walk away with a win in Spokane’s 36th one-run game this season.

The Indians will host the series finale on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

NWL All-Stars announced

Aparicio and left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans were named to the Northwest League Year-end All-Star team on Saturday.

Ragans, the Texas Rangers’ No. 1 pick in the 2016 amateur draft, leads the league with 87 strikeouts, 14 more than the second highest. The lefty posted a 3-2 record and a 3.61 ERA this season, allowing 50 hits and 23 earned runs in 57 1/3 innings.

Aparicio took a leading role at the plate later in the season after the Indians lost a few of their best hitters to promotions. The center fielder leads the current Indians roster in batting average (.287), hits (83), runs (46) and RBI (33).

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