Two games in a row now, the Spokane Indians haven’t gotten the kind of performance they’d like to see from their starting pitcher.
On Tuesday, the Indians were able to rally. On Wednesday, not so much. Both nights, the result was the same.
A night after putting up four runs in the first, the Vancouver Canadians scored five first-inning runs, ending starter Chris McMahon’s night after just 40 pitches, and defeating Spokane 10-2.
It followed an 8-6 victory for Vancouver (19-13) on Tuesday. Now the Indians are 13-19 overall and 4-4 on their season-long 12-game homestand, which they opened last week by taking four of six from Tri-City.
McMahon (2-2) had his shortest outing of the season and his first (of now seven) that didn’t last at least five innings. All five runs he allowed were earned, and his season ERA increased to 5.56.
“He kept picking, he ran his count up to about a million,” Indians manager Scott Little said of McMahon, who walked his first two batters. “He was on the edge of coming out that inning before he got the third out.”
After the Canadians took that 5-0 lead, the Indians answered immediately in the bottom of the first, when lead-off hitter Isaac Collins swatted the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence. It was Collins’ first home run in 62 minor-league games.
“Yeah, it was a long time coming. I’ve been finding barrels, just haven’t put one up in the air yet,” said Collins, who finished 2-for-5. “I’ve never been a power hitter. Always just contact, get on base, steal bags. I’m strong, I’ll give myself that, and I’ll get into one every once in a while, but I’m not up there looking for home runs.”
Niko Decalati, playing in his first game since May 29, followed Collins’ home run with a long single off the right-field wall. But as Decalati tried to make it a double, Tanner Kirwer threw him out, ending a potential rally.
Then, Little opted to pull McMahon and gave the ball to reliever Trent Fennell for the second inning. It worked out: Fennell struck out five batters – as many as reached base – in four shutout innings, which gave Spokane a four-frame window to close the gap.
It was Fennell’s first four-inning outing since a spot-start for Asheville on Aug. 1, 2019, when he also threw four shutout innings.
“I felt good tonight,” Fennell said. “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
It was an important outing for the Indians, whose bullpen has thrown 13 of the team’s last 18 innings.
“I’m elated with his performance,” Little said of Fennell’s outing. “If I woulda got two-plus into three (innings), I would’ve been excited, but the kid pitched four innings for us, got us into the 6th inning. That’s outstanding. He gave us a chance to not blow up the whole bullpen.”
Yet as Fennell kept the Canadians at bay, the Indians got just one more run back, in the fourth, on Daniel Cope’s sacrifice fly to right. It was Cope’s first RBI of the season, making the score 5-2. But that was all the Indians would get off of Vancouver starter CJ Van Eyk (1-1).
Boby Johnson replaced Fennell on the mound in the sixth and promptly allowed the first four batters to reach base. By the end of the frame Vancouver had four more runs and a 9-2 lead. Spokane finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
It was a game where the Indians will no doubt rue their missed opportunities in the middle innings, as well as again falling behind even before they had come up to bat.
“(Fennell) came in and shut it down for about four innings and gave us a chance, but we couldn’t really take advantage of it,” Collins said, “but again, it’s baseball. Later on in the season we’ll have one of those games where we come back down six (runs) and have a great win, a whole team win.”
The Indians fell to 1-7 against Vancouver this season, and they will resume their six-game series at noon on Thursday. It is the only game scheduled to begin before 5 p.m. this season at Avista Stadium. Ryan Feltner (2-1, 2.51 ERA) will start for the Indians.
“Got a horse going tomorrow,” Little said of Feltner. “None of this picking around and walking people and giving up hits and blowing up big innings, I hope.”
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