After Wednesday’s loss, Spokane Indians manager Scott Little said it was a matter of time before his offense would get going.
Maybe the chilly temperatures had something to do with it, but the bats stayed cold on Friday.
Four Eugene pitchers combined to allow just four hits and the Ems won their fourth in a row, beating the Indians 8-4 at Avista Stadium.
The game-time temperature was 53, but a 15-mph wind made it feel like early March.
Indians starter Ryan Feltner made a strong season debut, going four innings and allowing one run on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts. As has been the case this season, the bullpen struggled again, with four pitchers allowing seven runs on 10 hits and three walks.
Three errors didn’t help, either.
Feltner’s worst stretch was the first four batters of the game. Leadoff hitter Tyler Fitzgerald flared one to right, then Ismael Mungia singled to center. Back-to-back walks forced in a run and Feltner was officially in hot water.
Catcher Willie MacIver stepped in front of home plate and offered some words of encouragement to his starter.
“I was kind of like, ‘Hey, come on, like, calm down,’” MacIver said. “I know it’s his first outing of the year, and the nerves can be can be a little jumpy, especially in the first inning.”
Something clicked for the 24-year-old Feltner, as he struck out the fifth- and sixth-place hitters, then got Jacob Gonzalez to tap one back to the mound for an easy out to end the inning.
“I think first inning he was a little shaky,” Little said of Feltner. “Using too much off-speed stuff, getting behind in the count. But he did a great job of working out of it, established his fastball and then after that, the next few innings was really aggressive and did a great job.”
Feltner mowed down 11 of 12 batters until running into trouble with two down in the fourth. Back-to-back singles – the second one off his backside – and a walk loaded the bases for Mungia, but Hunter Stovall tracked his fly ball down at the short wall in left-field foul territory.
That was it for Feltner, who threw 78 pitches, 51 for strikes.
“The first inning was a little bit a little shaky,” Felter admitted. “I could have been kind of been more aggressive over the plate. I think once those first two hits happened, I started to try to miss the bats a little bit too much instead of doing what I did later in the game, which is just attack, protect the heart of the plate, and kind of let my stuff work.”
“His breaking ball was biting hard tonight and it’s getting a lot of swing and misses on that,” MacIver said. “When he’s throwing his off-speed pitches in the zone it opens up the door for that fastball even more, and it’s got a lot of life on it, that fastball.”
The Indians’ offense got something going in the bottom of the fourth. Aaron Schunk led off with a single and stole second – the Indians have 14th stolen bases. With one down, Michael Toglia coaxed a walk and Willie MacIver found the hole on the left side to plate Schunk.
After a pitching change, Stovall bounced out to first to bring in another run and the Indians led 3-1 after four.
The Ems’ Will Wilson greeted reliever Trent Fennell with a line-drive homer to left-center. Fennel then issued a pair of walks, but a pair of groundball outs quashed the threat.
Eugene tied it in the sixth on three consecutive two-out singles, the last by Logan Wyatt. It was the 15th time in 19 plate appearances this season Wyatt reached base.
The Ems took a 5-3 lead in the seventh on an RBI single by Gonzalez and sacrifice fly by Fitzgerald. They tacked another run on in the eighth on pitcher Tristan Barlow’s throwing error and two more in the ninth off three straight hits off Moises Ceja.
The Indians’ loudest hit came from Toglia in the bottom of the ninth, who crushed his third home run of the season over the scoreboard in right-center.
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