Not every game is going to come easy. Few come with a positive outcome this tough.
Spokane reliever Joe Corbett entered the game in the top of the ninth with a two-run lead – but with no outs and the bases loaded.
Corbett struck out the first two batters he faced, then had to watch nervously as Kellen Strahm tracked down a liner to left-center by Carter Bins before the Spokane Indians could escape with a 6-4 win over the Everett AquaSox in the first of a three-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium on Wednesday night.
“I thought he hit a lot harder than he did,” Corbett said. “I thought it was in the gap. But luckily Kellen – he’s nimble on his feet out there. So he caught it and it’s a great feeling.”
The Indians (20-13) lead Tri-City by two games in the North Division with five to play. Spokane has already clinched a playoff spot due to its first-half title. Everett is four games back. If Spokane wins the second-half title, its playoff opponent would be the second-place team from the second half.
“I want the ball in that situation,” Corbett said. “I live for that. I love it, man.”
“That was probably one of the most stressful endings we’ve been a part of all year,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said.
Corbett was in the game because Juan Mejia, in his second inning of work, had allowed two hits and a walk to load them up.
“I think Mejia just ran out of gas there at the end,” Hook said. “We’d like to get him to finish the game. But I mean, what a job by Corbett right there. I mean, you don’t see that very often – bases loaded, nobody out and get out of it without scoring.”
The Indians trailed early – Everett put up three in the top of the first – but clawed back to tie it at 4 in the sixth. They eventually took the lead in the bottom of the eighth – but not without controversy.
Spokane loaded the bases with two down on a single and two walks. Cristian Inoa bounced one toward the hole but the runner at second, David Garcia, cut in front of third baseman Connor Hoover and the ball glanced off Hoover’s glove into short left, allowing two runs to score.
Hoover immediately protested for interference and Everett manager Louis Boyd came out to argue the play and was ejected – his first as a manager. Boyd, 25, was named manager of the AquaSox earlier in the season.
“The base runner had established his path,” Hook said. “I think just there was close quarters there. I don’t think there was contact. And I think that’s what you go off of. … I didn’t see contact. I mean, I think it was a good no-call if there’s no contact.”
“I just ran on my line,” Garcia said through a translator. “I was worried a little bit, because I thought we were going to collide. But I played it through.”
Indians starter Spencer Mraz, the Texas Rangers’ 33rd-round pick out of Miami (Ohio) in this year’s MLB draft, made his second appearance for Spokane after his assignment from the Arizona Rookie League. The 6-foot-10 Mraz gave up five hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning last week against Everett. His second go-round wasn’t much better.
Leadoff hitter Utah Jones lined a single, then Mraz walked two of the next three hitters to load the bases. Mraz uncorked a wild pitch for the first run, then Robert Perez grounded to short to score another. Hoover followed with a line-drive single to make it 3-0.
Hook ended Mraz’s evening after six batters. Jeifry Nunez came on to strike out Cash Gladfelter to end the inning.
Kenen Irizarry collected the Indians’ first hit of the game in the fourth, a double to the wall in right that scored Strahm to trim the Indians’ deficit to 4-2. Jonah McReynolds made it a one-run game with a solo homer to lead off the fifth, his sixth.
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