Blaine Crim is making a good case for Northwest League Most Valuable Player. He has hits in 13 of 15 games in August, leads the league in hitting and RBIs, and was named the NWL’s “Top Star” at the midseason all-star game with a 3-for-4 performance.
On Saturday, Crim delivered a two-run single as part of a five-run fifth inning and the Spokane Indians beat the Hillsboro Hops 9-6 in the second of a four-game NWL series on Spokane Chiefs Night at Avista Stadium.
Spokane’s Derwin Barreto pounded a three-run homer in the third inning.
“It was huge to come out and swing the bat a little bit better tonight,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said.
The postseason-bound Indians, North Division first-half champions, also lead the second half at 18-12. Hillsboro (19-11) is three games ahead of Salem-Keizer in the South.
New Chiefs coach Manny Viveiros delivered a special ceremonial first “pitch,” a wrist shot from just in front of the pitcher’s mound. He caught the outside corner of the plate.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen like that,” Viveiros said of the using a hockey stick to deliver the first pitch. “I’ve never done that before. Luckily, I didn’t have to throw the ball. It’s easier to hit it with a hockey stick.
“I know if I didn’t get it to the plate the kids would have given me a hard time (at practice) tomorrow.”
Crim, hitting .355 with nine game to play, won’t allow himself to dwell on his success.
“On the field I can’t really focus on it, because it can get to my head and, you know, make my britches a little too big,” he said. “But yeah, I mean, it wouldn’t be possible without the guys and I wouldn’t be able to drive in people if there weren’t the runners on base.”
The Hops jumped on Indians starters Leury Tejada right off the bat. Ricky Martinez laced the first pitch of the game into the right-field corner for a double and scored when the next batter, Jorge Barrosa, bounced one through the hole for an RBI single.
It got worse in the third. With one down, Martinez drew a walk and went to third on a single by Barrosa. Jesus Marriaga walked then Liover Peguero lined a two-run single to left.
Tejada pitched a scoreless fourth. He allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts.
“I was happy with the way Tejada stayed in the game, even though the strike zone looked a little tight.” Hook said. “He managed his game really well.”
The Indians got on the board in the bottom half against Hops starter Ryne Nelson.
Starling Joseph broke a 0-for-9 slump with an RBI single with two on, then Barreto smacked a 2-1 pitch over the short wall in right for a three-run homer – his second of the season – and 4-3 lead.
That ended Nelson’s night. He gave up four runs on three hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
The Indians loaded the bases in the fifth against reliever Wilfry Cruz. Joseph reached via a wild pitch, Barreto singled and Kellen Strahm drew a walk. Crim followed with a liner past third to drive in two, his league-leading 39th and 40th, to make it 6-3.
“Huge,” Hook said of Crim’s hit. “I know he had some opportunities last night that he didn’t come through. But we love him up there obviously in those situations, but that was huge – the guys in front of him – to create that opportunity.”
“It was a big hit,” Crim said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit the past couple nights getting under the ball. So was definitely a big (one) for the team.”
Two more runs scored in the inning on a bases-loaded walk and two-run throwing error to make it 9-3.
Warner Leal took over for Tejada and provided three scoreless, hitless innings of relief with three strikeouts. Leal lowered his season ERA to 0.64 over 42 innings.
Hillsboro’s Tristin English hit a two-run homer off Triston Polley in the eighth.