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Spokane Indians pitchers walk season-high 11 in loss to Hillsboro

Managers and pitching coaches usually don’t mind if their pitchers get beaten if they are throwing strikes. It can drive them crazy if they aren’t.

Spokane pitchers issued a season-high 11 walks on Monday and the Indians lost to the Hillsboro Hops 7-2 to split a four-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.

The Indians (19-13) stayed one game ahead of Tri-City in the North Division with six to play, while Hillsboro (20-12) is four ahead of Salem-Keizer in the South.

Four of the free passes come around to score.

“Eleven walks,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said. “ I mean, what are you going to do? It’s not only what that does with those guys on base, but it’s what it does to the energy level of the team and kind of the flow of the game.”

Indians starter Theo McDowell was coming off a couple of strong outings. He had allowed just one earned run over his last two starts covering seven innings.

He couldn’t make it three in a row.

McDowell allowed four runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. His season ERA ballooned to 6.60 over 11 appearances. He’s given up multiple runs in six of those outings.

The bullpen, which has been a strength all season, wasn’t much better. Lefty Josh Smith walked four in his one inning of work while Juan Castillo and recently assigned Dylan Bice both walked a pair.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro starter Tyler Holton continued his spate of recent success. He struck out 10 over 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. Holton had not allowed an earned run in his last three starts, covering 16 innings, with 28 strikeouts.

Kellen Strahm gave the Indians an early lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the first – his fifth of the season.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Strahm said. “The 0-fers are kind of stacking up a little bit but you know, I just had to wanted to put a couple good swings on today. And you know, finally got one.”

Hook was happy to see his centerfielder unleash.

“(Strahm) was a little more aggressive on some pitches, so it was good to see him actually go pull-side for change.”

But McDowell got into some trouble in the third – without allowing a hit.

He issued consecutive walks to lead off the inning, and the runners moved up on a sacrifice. He uncorked a wild pitch to allow a run to score, and a sacrifice fly by Tristin English plated the second.

“I think (McDowell) has struggled with command at times,” Hook said. “And when he walked those two guys, I think it changed his mentality of attacking and that’s what was making him good. And that’s a learning lesson for him.”

Hillsboro added on in the fourth. McDowell issued a one-out walk to Andy Yerzy and with two down, three consecutive singles plated two more runs.

The Hops picked up another run in the fifth. Liover Peguero walked, stole second, took third on a sacrifice and scored on a two-out single by Dom Canzone. Smith then walked the next two batters to load the bases and Hook called on Juan Castillo, who coaxed a popup to get out of the inning.

Jake Hoover led off the home half with a triple and scored with one down on a double by Strahm to make it 5-2, but Hillsboro got that one back in the sixth when English walked and scored on a double by Jesus Marriaga.

Hillsboro tacked on an insurance run against Juan Mejia in the ninth as Canzone singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan January.

Cristian Inoa singled in the second, just his third hit of the year against a left-handed pitcher. He entered play 2 for 42 against southpaws, an average of .048.

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