The Spokane Indians entered play on Friday on a five-game winning streak with a chance to clinch a division title with a win.
If a first-half championship is going to come, it’ll have to wait a day – and happen on the road.
The Vancouver Canadians jumped on starter Theo McDowell and reliever Juan Mejia for seven runs in the first two innings and beat the Indians 7-2 in the finale of a three-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.
The Indians (20-15) remain three games ahead of Everett (17-18) with three games to play in the first half – all in Everett.
Opening day pitcher Ricky Vanasco (3-0, 1.46) is scheduled to start against the AquaSox on Saturday.
The Indians were held to six hits by four Canadians pitchers and the defense committed four errors – three by shortstop Cristian Inoa.
“I think, it just wasn’t what I was expecting,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said. “I guess the way it happened with just the mental mistakes and then, you know, not being able to to throw strikes there to start off the game. A little bit different than what we had in mind.”
Designated hitter David Garcia provided most of the offense with two solo home runs, increasing his team lead to five.
“I’m seeing it well right now,” Garcia said through a translator. “I’m trying to keep the same routines and that has paid off.
“What I’m trying to do is be a little more selective.”
McDowell got into hot water right away. With one down in the first, he issued back-to-back walks and Jesus Lopez’s infield single off the glove of Blaine Crim at first loaded the bases.
Will Robertson dumped a soft liner in front of Tanner Gardner in right for an RBI single. McDowell bounced back to strike out Cameron Eden for the second out, but walked catcher Brett Wright to force in a run.
That brought Hook out to replace McDowell, who allowed four runs – two earned – on two hits, three walks and a wild pitch.
It’s been an up-and-down season for McDowell, who entered play with a 5.68 ERA. He’s 0-3 in his three starts, but he has allowed only two earned runs with 10 strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings out of the pen.
“When (McDowell) can get into a rhythm, he has been really good for us,” Hook said. “I don’t know if there’s something with the starting versus relieving, but with his movement, when he feels good he can be dangerous.”
Mejia took over and he coaxed a ground ball to short by Ronny Brito, but Inoa’s throw to first was off the mark and two runs scored on the errant throw.
The Canadians (12-23) added on in the second. Mejia hit leadoff batter Tanner Morris, then Trevor Schwecke clubbed one off the wall in center for an RBI triple. Philip Clarke bounced one to short, but Inoa’s throw pulled Crim off the bag for his second throwing error of the game and Schwecke scampered home to make it 6-0.
Wright one-hopped the wall in left to plate another run, but Robertson was thrown out at the plate on a strong relay by Stanley Martinez to end the inning with the Indians trailing 7-0.
Mejia allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits and a walk over 3 1/3 innings.
The Indians went without a hit or a walk until the fifth, when Garcia launched a blast to right-center for his fourth home run.
Garcia did it again in the seventh, turning on a fastball by Vancouver reliever Jared DiCesare over the short wall in straight right.
Garcia has hits in eight of his last nine games, and four of his five homers have been at Avista Stadium.
The Indians had a chance to cut into the lead even more in the inning, but Jake Hoover flied out with two on and two down.
Garcia had one more shot. He came to bat with two on and two down in the eighth, but got underneath one and flied out to deep center to end the inning.
Spokane’s Kellen Strahm went 0 for 4 with no walks, ending his 12-game on-base streak.
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