Sometimes an arbitrary endpoint is all a team needs to shake the doldrums and start anew.
The end of the first half of the Northwest League schedule on Monday wasn’t exactly arbitrary, but the date on the calendar was.
Regardless, it was a fresh start and that’s how the Spokane Indians went from last place in the North Division to first – overnight.
Diosbel Arias went 2 for 4 with a home run and five RBIs and the Indians beat the Tri-City Dust Devils 12-6 in the first of a three-game Northwest League series to kick off the second half at Avista Stadium on Tuesday.
The Indians (1-0) finished the first half five games under .500 and with three straight losses.
“It was fun,” acting manager Carlos Maldonado said. “It was good to see the guys, especially after a long road trip and long bus ride, come out and swing the bats really well.”
Maldonado, normally the bench coach, handled the managerial duties and coached third base. Manager Kenny Holmberg will remain away from the team until Sunday due to the birth of his first child.
Spokane trailed 6-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth but put up four runs in the sixth and seventh innings to blow a tight game wide open.
Arias clubbed a two-run homer in the sixth and a two-run single in the seventh. Earlier, he drew a bases-loaded walk in the third, plating the Indians’ first run of the game.
“I’m here to help the team win. Every night,” Arias said through a translator. “That’s what we’re looking for and that’s the focus.”
Indians starter Tai Tiedemann made his seventh start of the season and wasn’t particularly effective. He allowed five runs on five hits – including a home run – and two walks with five strikeouts and three wild pitches.
In the second, Tiedemann hit Dwanya Williams-Sutton and a wild pitch moved him up to second. With two outs, No. 9 hitter Tre Carter singled to right-center, plating the Devils’ first run.
Grant Little followed with a line-drive double into the left-field corner, scoring Carter from first for a 2-0 lead for Tri-City (0-1).
Indians hitters went to work in the third. Tyler Depreta-Johnson led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch. Jax Biggers drew a walk and J.P. Martinez moved them both up with a perfectly placed bunt single.
NWL home run leader Curtis Terry extended his strike zone and whiffed on an outside pitch for strike three, but Arias took a close pitch for ball four, pushing a run across.
That’s all the Indians managed in the rally, though, as Jonah McReynolds lined out and Tanner Gardner skied out to center to leave three stranded.
Tiedemann had retired seven in a row into the fifth, including a pair of strikeouts to start the frame. But a 2-0 fastball to Olivier Basabe got too much of the plate and the second baseman delivered a line drive into the screen above the fence in left field for a 3-1 Tri-City lead.
Martinez led off the sixth with a line-drive single to center. With one down, Arias launched a 1-2 pitch high into the screen in left to tie the game at 3 and drive Tri-Cities starter Cole Bellinger from the game.
It was Arias’ third homer of the season.
“A big night for (Arias),” Maldonado said. “Hopefully, we do the same thing tomorrow.”
Bellinger, the younger brother of Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger, allowed three runs on five hits and five walks with five strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
In the sixth, Tiedemann gave up a one-out double to Luis Asuncion and followed that with a base on balls and acting manager Carlos Maldonado brought reliever Cole Uvila in.
Uvila walked his first batter, No. 8 hitter Kelvin Alarcon, to load the bases and Carter’s fly ball to medium deep left was enough to plate a run.
The two other runners moved up on the throw home. When Little’s ground ball into the hole ticked off Depreta-Johnson’s diving attempt and into short left field, both runners scored to make it 6-3.
Francisco Ventura led off the bottom half with a double to left center. Starling Joseph singled and Depreta-Johnson drew a walk to led the bases.
Biggers’ ground-ball single down the third-base line plated two, then Martinez moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt.
Terry struck out for the third time in the game, allowing Arias to play hero again.
On a 0-2 pitch from reliever Diomar Lopez, Arias bounced one up the middle and into center, driving in both runners and giving the Indians their first lead of the night at 7-6.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much in that situation,” Arias said. “The team needed those runs, and I tried to think small and not get anxious and stay within myself.”
The Indians loaded the bases with two down in the seventh. Martinez bounced one to first and beat the bad throw – which went into the dugout – and two runs scored on the play.
Terry followed with a broken-bat, opposite-field single to drive in two more to make it 11-6.
The Indians padded the lead in the eighth on an RBI double by Joseph.
Emma Charlesworth-Seiler, in her first season as an umpire in the Northwest League, called the bases. It was her first appearance at Avista Stadium, but she previously called an Indians series at Vancouver earlier this month. She umpired in the Florida Gulf Coast League in 2017.
Transaction: RHP Austin Pettibone was added to the roster on a rehab assignment. He pitched He pitched for High-A Down East and Low-A Hickory last season. Pettibone tossed one hitless inning for the Rangers’ Arizona League team on July 21.
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