For the third game in a row , the Spokane Indians got off to an early lead. For the second time, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead .
The home team led 3-0 after the first inning, then rallied for three runs in the seventh to tie the score. All that was undone by Davis Schneider’s leadoff solo homer off reliever Robinson Hernandez in the eighth, and the Indians fell to the Vancouver Canadians 8-7 in a Northwest League game at Avista Stadium on Sunday.
The Indians (1-2) are off on Monday before starting a six-game series at Eugene on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m.
Spokane had a chance in the ninth. Zac Veen led off with a walk, then stole second and third. With two outs, Daniel Montano drew a walk, but not before the umpire crew missed an obvious balk by reliever Gabriel Ponce which would have tied the game.
Colin Simpson battled to a full count but swung though a slider to end the game.
“It’s a tough game, tough loss,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “Biggest play of the game, the biggest situation of the night slipped through the cracks. But, you know, they’re young umpires and they’re learning.”
Little said the bullpen is still a work in progress, but he isn’t panicking.
“We just got to keep getting better,” he said, “First time out, it’s cold. We’re not pitching our best, but we’re leaving room to get better.
“I’m not gonna freak out over losing two games here. Just like last year, you stay patient and just hope and just try to get better each game.”
The Indians went to work against Canadians starter Sem Robbense in the first. Veen dropped a bunt down the third base line for a one-out single, then Drew Romo laced a double to the left-center gap.
Grant Lavigne (2 for 5, three RBIs) roped a single into right field and both runners scored. Simpson singled to center and Lavigne came home after Garrett Spain fumbled the pickup.
The Indians made their first glaring defensive miscue of the season in the third. Following back-to-back leadoff hits, starter Andrew Quezada struck out Zach Britton on a ball in the dirt. Romo blocked it, but his throw to first was high and down the right field line, allowing both runners to score and Britton ended up at third. Britton then scored on a nubber to first to tie it.
Spain made up for his defensive gaffe in the fifth with a solo home run to the short porch in right to put Vancouver (2-1) up 4-3.
The Indians evened it in the sixth on a double by Montano and a single by Simpson, but the Canadians retook the lead in the seventh on a solo homer by Trevor Schwecke an RBI triple by Miguel Hiraldo and a balk by Hernandez.
Spokane tied it in the seventh on a pair of sacrifice flies and Lavigne’s RBI single.
• Powering up: Lavigne had a solid first series, going 5 for 12 with a homer and four RBIs over three games. The Rockies’ No. 19 prospect, who was drafted 42nd overall in 2018 finished with a .264/.380/.412 line with nine homers and 58 RBIs in 104 games between Low-A Fresno and Spokane last year.
“I feel really good at the plate so far, just trying to be aggressive around the count and put some damage on the baseball,” he said.
“I’m just trying to use the whole field. Not really too concerned about the power numbers. Obviously you just want to put together quality (at -bats) and hit the ball hard, as much as I can.”
• First time out: Quezada was making his first start in High-A. He allowed four runs – just two earned – on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts over five innings.
“I felt good – obviously a little nerve-wracking … coming out for the first outing of the season trying to do well,” he said. “But I felt comfortable being back here and I’ll live with the result. I felt like I was executing pitches well. Had a few mistakes but overall but the body feels good.”
He’s enjoying working with top catching prospect Drew Romo.
“We’ve had a short time to get to know each other just from spring training, but just learning each other – him learning me and then me trusting his pitch calling – has been amazing, especially for him being a younger guy.”
• Leather work: After the Canadians tied the game in the third, Vancouver’s Riley Tirotta led off the fourth with a double to put Quezada in hot water again and with one down, Harry Ray stung one into the left field corner.
Indians left fielder Montano ranged toward the line and made a sliding backhanded catch to prevent extra bases. He jumped to his feet and doubled up Tirotta, who had already rounded third base.