Helcris Olivarez has a lot going for him as a starting pitcher. His repertoire includes an “electric” fastball – according to Spokane Indians manager Scott Little – which tops out at 97 mph, and he complements it with a power curve and developing change-up.
Olivarez put together his best outing of the season in his last start, going five innings and allowing just one run. He struck out a season-high seven batters and picked up his first win of the year.
But things have been decidedly up-and-down this season for the lefty, ranked as the Colorado Rockies’ No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com. He entered play 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA Tuesday night, in the opener of a six-game High-A West series against the Vancouver Canadians at Avista Stadium.
Olivarez was up-and-down again – all in the same game.
Olivarez was roughed up in two of the five innings in which he pitched and left with a 7-2 deficit. Although the home team made a game of it, Indians pitchers walked five and hit five more and the Canadians came away with an 8-6 win.
“We gotta stop giving them walks and base runners,” Little said.
Michael Toglia was the hitting hero for Spokane (13-18) with a three-run homer in the sixth, his league-leading ninth of the season.
“He’s having better at-bats, for sure,” Little said of Toglia. “He’s giving himself a chance, laying off some pitches. Once he starts getting himself in better counts he’s going to be really, really big for us.”
[BOX SCORE courtesy MILB.com]
Olivarez’s final line was not pretty: seven earned runs on six hits, two walks and two hit batters with five strikeouts. But he did pitch three clean innings, continuing the paradox that is his 2021 season.
“It’s been the story of his season so far,” Little said. “Hopefully soon we’re gonna find something here that clicks for him so he has a bunch of good innings instead of one or two bad ones.”
Olivarez ran into trouble from the start. Tanner Kirwir led off the first for the Canadians (18-13) with a single and went to third on Olivarez’s errant pickoff throw.
Kirwir scored on a ground ball. After another single and hit by pitch, Luis De Los Santos launched one to the short porch in right just out of reach of right fielder Luke Morgan for a three-run homer.
The Indians got one back in the third. Jack Blomgren reached base, took second on a throwing error and came around on Aaron Schunk’s two-out single.
Spokane’s Willie MacIver doubled to lead off the fourth, went to third on a single by Toglia and came home on a sacrifice fly.
Olivarez made more trouble for himself in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs on two walks and a hit batter. Moises Ceja relieved and immediately allowed an RBI single to Cameron Eden. Two more runs came in on a double-play and wild pitch.
The Indians made some noise in the fifth as Brenton Doyle singled and MacIver walked ahead of Toglia’s blast over the scoreboard in right center, which made it a two-run game.
The C’s added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single by De Los Santos.
Spokane got within two in the eighth after Kyle Datres walked, stole second and scored on a Hunter Stovall single, but the Indians went 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Around the league
Everett 8, Eugene 6: Austin Shenton went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, Carter Bins homered and the AquaSox (18-12) beat the visiting Emeralds (19-12). Simon Whiteman hit his first homer of the season for Eugene.
Hillsboro 7, Tri-City 4: Buddy Kennedy went 3 for 5 with a home run and six RBIs and the Hops (14-16) topped the visiting Dust Devils (10-21). Franklin Torres knocked in a pair for T-C.
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