Spokane Indians manager Scott Little said on Monday the key to the High-A West championship series between the Indians and the Eugene Emeralds this week would be quality starting pitching.
They didn’t get it – or much relief either – Tuesday night in Game 1.
Left-hander Helcris Olivarez was lit up for eight runs on six hits, including three home runs – all in the first inning – and despite the hitters’ best efforts the Indians dropped the first of a best-of-5 series 15-7 at Avista Stadium.
[BOX SCORE courtesy MILB.com]
It’s the first time since 2018 the Indians have played in the league championship series.
Eugene’s Ricardo Genoves went 3 for 3 with two homers, a double and four RBIs for Eugene. The Emeralds hit five home runs in the first three innings. Eugene’s 20 hits was a single-game high against Spokane.
“Just flush and go,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “That’s all we can do, you know? We did a lot of things good and we just had a lot of trouble getting them out.”
Brenton Doyle had a couple of big hits in the later innings to make it competitive. He finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs.
“Honestly, even after that first inning, I had a lot of confidence in us to even come back and win the game,” Doyle said. “We’ve had some crazy comebacks this season, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if we came back and won this one.”
“There’s no quit in them.” Little said. “That’s all we ask.”
Olivarez recorded one out in the first inning. He threw 31 pitches, just 18 for strikes. Many of those were put in play – hard.
“He threw it out over the plate,” Little said. They had a good approach against him and had success.”
The 21-year-old was coming off a strong 6 2/3 inning, no-hit performance last week against Everett. However, Olivarez was 0-3 with a 8.15 earned run average in five regular season starts against Eugene.
Ismael Munguia, who led the High-A West in batting average at .336, led off the game with a line drive single. Brett Auerbach walked and Armani Smith lined a single to right to plate Munguia with the Ems’ first run just eight pitches in.
Sean Roby hit the next pitch for a three-run home run and a 4-0 lead.
After a fly out, Tyler Fitzgerald walked, then Marco Luciano tripled on a line drive to right to drive in Fitzgerald. Genoves followed with a two-run homer just inside the right-field fair pole and No. 9 hitter Franklin Labour added a solo shot on Olivarez’ last pitch of the game.
“After an eight-spot in the first, (the momentum) definitely wasn’t the best,” Doyle said. “But I think we did a really good job of getting momentum going into tomorrow’s game. We put up a really good solid nine innings tonight and I think we have more momentum than they do going into tomorrow.”
Moises Ceja got out of the first inning with a couple of strikeouts, but he didn’t escape punishment later. In the third, Genoves hit a solo homer to center. Two batters later, Munguia (5 for 6, three runs) did the same to make it 10-0.
Jack Blomgren got the Indians on the board in the bottom half with a solo homer, his fourth round-tripper of the season.
Spokane chipped away a little more in the sixth. Ezequiel Tovar doubled and scored on a single by Hunter Stovall. Doyle doubled home Stovall, then a single by Grant Lavigne plated Doyle to make it 10-4.
Eugene added a run in the seventh on a double by Fitzgerald and sacrifice fly by Genoves.
The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half on an error and a pair of walks issued by reliever Ty Weber. Doyle ripped a double to left to clear the bases and bring the home team within four runs at 11-7.
“The energy was very high, even before getting up to the plate,” Doyle said. “I got (the pitch) I wanted and I put a good swing on it and we just kept gaining on the energy, just kept adding on.”
But the Ems responded, In the eighth, as Roby plated Munguia with a two-out RBI single to restore a five-run lead, then they tacked on three more in the ninth against Boby Johnson.
Game 2 is Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Chris McMahon is the scheduled starter for Spokane.
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