Spokane Indians reliever Billy Layne Jr. has been terrific this season. The 22-year-old entered play on Friday night with a 1.71 earned-run average in 11 appearances over 26 1/3 innings, with 30 strikeouts.
But everyone has a rough day at work now and then.
Ryan January drove in three runs out of the No. 8 spot in the order, including his second home run of the season, and the Hillsboro Hops topped the Spokane Indians 8-2 in the first of a four-game series between the two first-place teams in the Northwest League at Avista Stadium.
The Indians (17-12) stayed one game ahead of Tri-City in the North Division second-half standings. Hillsboro (19-10) maintained a four-game lead over Salem-Keizer in the South with 10 games to play.
“Two teams that are in first place in their division, it’s good to match up at this point this late in the year,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said.
“You can see they’ve got a good ballclub – they catch them all, their defense is really good.”
After a 1-2-3 third inning in relief of starter Zak Kent, Layne (2-1) allowed eight runs, seven earned, on seven hits and two walks in the fourth and fifth innings. His season ERA climbed more than two runs to 3.72 when his three-inning stint was complete.
“It’s tough when you don’t throw a high number of innings and (ERA) is going to fluctuate more,” Hook said. “But we know what he can do and how well he’s thrown for us.
“I think what his ground-ball rate and strike percentage and things like that is far more important to us.”
The Indians took the early lead. With two down in the first, Blaine Crim banged one off the wall in left field and Alexander Ovalles came around to score from second. Crim was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Spokane loaded the bases with two down in the third, but Jonah McReynolds was called out on strikes to end the inning.
Hillsboro’s Tristin English led off the fourth with a single and went to third when shortstop Derwin Barreto booted Andy Yerzy’s routine grounder. With one down, Dom Canzone hit a hard grounder to first that ate up Scott Kapers – normally a catcher – and Yerzy chugged home from second.
Layne walked Joe Gillette and January laced a single to score Canzone. After a mound visit, No. 9 hitter Daniel Wasinger short-hopped the wall in right-center for a double that scored another run and made it 4-1.
“I think (Layne) went away from the fastball a little bit after we made the error. He went a little more heavy off-speed,” Hook said.
“But yeah, it just wasn’t his day.”
The Indians loaded the bases with one down in the bottom half. Ovalles struck out looking, but Kellen Strahm drew a walk, forcing in a run.
Crim, the NWL’s leading hitter (.360) followed, but his high fly died on the warning track for the third out.
Layne got into more trouble in the fifth. With two down and two on, Gillette lined a double over the head of Obie Ricumstrict in right to bring in both runners. January then followed with his second homer of the season, a line drive over the short wall in right, making it 8-2.
Indians starter Kent made his sixth start and ninth appearance of the season. He had allowed one run in two innings in each of his last three outings, but gave the Indians two clean innings on Friday, striking out two.
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