The Spokane Indians started the 2019 season on the road for the first time since 2005 – a seven-game trip through Vancouver and Salem-Keizer, which ended with a 5-2 record.
The Indians didn’t get back into Spokane until 5 a.m. on Friday, so they really didn’t even have a chance to rest before starting their seven-game homestand – the longest of the season.
It didn’t matter.
David Garcia hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, added a two-run double in the sixth and the Indians downed the Boise Hawks 9-4 in the first of a four-game Northwest League series before an over-capacity crowd of 7,050 at Avista Stadium.
Obie Ricumstrict and Starling Joseph added homers for the Indians, who matched their season’s home run total in the game.
“Awesome, awesome energy in the crowd,” manager Kenny Hook said. “We’ve kind of taken kind of a motto to try to get that first game of the series and that sets you up to have a good series. And so I think you saw that tonight.”
The Indians (6-2) sent right-hander Ricky Vanasco to start the home opener. Vanasco, the 15th round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 2017 draft, started the season opener last week in Vancouver and struck out seven in four shutout innings.
Vanasco got into trouble on Friday right away.
He lost leadoff hitter Isaac Collins on an inside 3-2 fastball, Ezequiel Tovar dropped a soft single into center and Michael Toglia’s hard grounder to second couldn’t be handled by Stanley Martinez, loading the bases with no outs.
Aaron Schunk bounced into a 6-4 double play but a run came across. Vanasco reared back for a 97-mph fastball to get Trevor Boone swinging to end the inning.
The Indians got it right back.
Tanner Gardner, on injury rehab, drilled a two-out single, stole second and scored on a throwing error on shortstop Tovar off a grounder by Luis Asuncion.
Vanasco struck out the side in the third – including a nasty changeup to LeeMarcus Boyd for the first out and 95 mph on the outside corner to get Tovar looking for the third out.
Ricumstrict led off the bottom half of the third with a loud home run – 105 mph off the bat – for his second of the season – but just the team’s fourth homer in eight games.
The Hawks got the run right back in the fourth.
The Colorado Rockies’ first-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft, UCLA’s Michael Toglia, turned on an inside fastball and pulled it down the right field line and well into the picnic area past the fence to tie it up for his first professional hit.
With two down in the bottom half, Cristian Inoa reached on an infield singled and scored on Starling Joseph’s booming double off the left-center fence. Joseph moved up to third on a balk and Garcia – the Texas Rangers’ No. 29 prospect – clubbed a changeup to right center for a two-run homer and a 5-2 lead.
“He’s an exciting player with a great skill set being a switch-hitting catcher and a gifted receiver,” Hook said. “He’s a young kid that’s been swinging the bat pretty well and just not getting the results maybe he wanted.
“I think you saw him come up and deliver some big hits in crucial moments tonight.”
Boise (3-5) got something going in the fifth. Yorvis Torrealba led off with a walk and went to third on a double down the line by Daniel Cope. LeeMarcus Boyd followed with a single through the hole for a run.
Isaac Collins lashed one to first that Maxwell Morales snagged, took to the bag, then threw to second to complete a double play, but another run came in on the play.
Vanasco got Tovar to fly out to end the inning and his evening. He allowed four earned runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He threw 50 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
“I think what you saw was part of the next phase for him maturity-wise,” Hook said of his 20-year-old starter. “Hitters are going to make adjustments on his fastball, and he’s going to have to locate a little better and make some adjustments himself that second time he faces a guy.”
“I missed some pitches up, left them up and they put some good swings on it,” Vanasco said. “They made an adjustment after the third inning after I put that zero spot up and they started to hunt my fastball a bit more. It’s kind of expected. But my team had my back the whole night and came out with a win.”
Spokane loaded the bases in the sixth. Ryan Anderson led off with a single, Inoa walked and Joesph beat out an “excuse me” swing to the right side.
Garcia roped the first pitch from reliever Cameron Enck into the right field corner and just missed a homer by several inches. He settled for a two-run double off the low wall next to the fair pole.
Ricumstrict followed with a single through the hole to score Joseph to make it 8-4.
Then, some weirdness.
Jonah McReynolds bounced to short and Tovar went home with the throw. Garcia, who was on third, got back safely but Ricumstrict advanced to third on the rundown. Ricumstrict was called out as the trail runner advancing to an occupied base, but Garcia came off the bag without time being called and was tagged out for a double play.
Joseph added a solo homer, his first, in the eighth inning.
Reliever Nick Starr, who was assigned to the Indians’ from Low-A Hickory before the game, struck out three in three shutout, no-hit innings. Warner Leal struck out the side in the ninth to nail it down.
Streaking: With a single in the fifth inning, McReynolds extended his season-long hitting streak to eight games. He’s hitting .400 over the span.
Nice stretch: With two down in the top of the seventh, Daniel Cope bounced one to short and Inoa made a nice backhanded stab. His throw came up the line a bit and Maxwell Morales – a former catcher – made the splits for the catch and held the bag for the third out of the inning.
New kids: The Rangers assigned several players to the Indians roster for opening day. Three 2019 draft picks made their pro debuts: OF Kellen Strahm (fifth round), 1B Blaine Crim (19th round) and SS Jake Hoover (28th round).
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