If the Spokane Indians miss the Northwest League postseason by one game, they might look back on Tuesday’s game and think of the missed possibility.
With 19 games remaining and Eugene closing in on capturing both the first- and second-half titles, the team with the best overall season record earns the second playoff spot.
The Indians won four of six on the road last week against Hillsboro to leapfrog Vancouver in overall record and they held a half-game lead on the second playoff spot entering play on Tuesday – with last-place Tri-City in town for a six-game series.
With a 12:05 p.m. start time and temperatures in the low 90s, that half-game lead melted like a Popsicle sitting on an aluminum bleacher.
The Dust Devils scored early and often, downing the Indians 15-5. Spokane trailed 4-0 before coming to bat, and five of the six Indians pitchers allowed multiple runs in the process.
Tri-City (17-26) pounded out 14 hits, with five players accumulating two or more.
“A long day,” Indians manager Scott Little said.
“Today was one of those days where you just got to flush it, get in the showers, wash it off and you start tomorrow,” Indians outfielder Braiden Ward said. “You lose one, you win the next four or five, it’s good week, and that’s we’re looking forward to.”
The lone bright spot was infielder Eddy Diaz, who rapped three hits with a run and an RBI. Diaz recently returned to the lineup after a leg injury.
“That’s about all we had,” Little said of Diaz. “He’s swinging it. He’s gutting it out. I think he’s getting a little bit better every day.”
The Indians fell back to .500 (21-21) in the second half, six games behind Eugene for the league’s second-half lead. They are tied with Vancouver for the season overall record pending the Canadians’ late game in Everett.
The Indians host the Canadians in a seven-game series to conclude the regular season, starting Aug. 30.
Perhaps the noon start time – a “businesspersons special” promotion by the Indians – affected the starting pitchers, as both had a rough go of it in the first inning.
Indians starter Ryley Widell, a 25-year-old lefty who started his collegiate career at Washington State, made a solid debut for the Indians on the road last week with eight strikeouts over five innings. His follow-up did not go as well.
D’Shawn Knowles drew a walk to start the game and stole second. After a fly out, Osmy Gregorio lined an RBI single. Joe Stewart walked, then the Dust Devils pulled off a double steal. Casey Dana drew Widell’s third walk of the inning, and Christian Sepulvada and Steven Rivas knocked in runs with hits.
That did it for Widell, who threw 40 pitches to record two outs, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks.
“It’s not as bad as the line showed,” Indians pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “He tried to go in on right-handed hitters and he left it over the plate. He had a tough time laying enough breaking balls in there to keep him alive and he ran his pitch count up.”
The Indians answered for three in the bottom half off Tri-City starter Victor Mederos.
Ward and Drew Romo walked, then converted a double steal. Ward scored on a groundout, Romo came home on a fielding error and Colin Simpson walked and scored on an RBI double by Diaz.
Both teams added single runs in the second; the Indians’ run came courtesy of an RBI double by Julio Carreras.
Kyren Paris bumped the Tri-City lead to two in the fourth with a solo home run, his fifth of the season, off reliever Robinson Hernandez. Gregorio made it 8-4 in the sixth with a two-out, two-run double.
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