Starter Will Ethridge has had an up-and-down season for the Spokane Indians. The 24-year-old fifth-round pick in the 2019 MLB draft entered play on Friday with an 8.14 earned-run average in his past five starts, with 22 earned runs allowed in his past 24⅓ innings pitched.
But the great thing about baseball is that tomorrow is another chance to prove yourself. And with the Indians suffering an 11-1 loss on Thursday, the home team needed a strong showing from its starting pitcher.
The Indians got that, then had to survive a bullpen implosion to pull out the win.
Ethridge tossed six shutout innings, Eddy Diaz hit an inside-the-park home run and the Indians beat the Tri-City Dust Devils 6-4 in the fourth game of a six-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.
Austin Kitchen, who came into the game with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth with the Indians (5-7 second half of season) clinging to a two-run lead, retired both batters he faced to preserve the win.
“It’s just a little bit of a weight off the shoulder when you have nights like this. You just try to build off it,” Ethridge said.
“You do your best job and not let the failures pile up. When that happens, it’s just a giant domino effect where you’re not sure when the end is going to be. So my best chance of not having that happen is just not think about it.”
“Huge for (Ethridge) to get deep in the game, especially at the end with me having to burn Kitchen tonight,” pitching coach Ryan Kibler said.
“It’s been a big problem,” he said. “The whole staff can’t finish innings. (Ethridge) made the adjustment, now it’s a very nice teaching moment for the rest of those guys down there and the rest of the starting pitchers sitting here in the dugout.”
Ethridge (4-4) permitted just two runners to reach second base. He allowed three hits and two walks with five strikeouts and threw 74 pitches, 50 for strikes. It was the second game this year he pitched six innings and allowed no runs.
“We needed a big start,” Indians manager Scott Little said, “and the kid gave it to us.”
The offense got going early against Tri-City starter Jose Salvador, with single runs in the first and second innings.
The hits kept coming in the third. Diaz led off with a triple to the left-center gap and scored on Zac Veen’s single through the box. Julio Carreras crushed a double halfway up the wall in left-center and Veen scored from first to make it 4-0.
Diaz led off the fifth with a low line drive to center that skipped past the diving Osmy Gregorio and went all the way to the wall. By the time right fielder Mike Peabody chased it down, Diaz was rounding third and he scored well ahead of the relay for an inside-the-park home run.
Little said there was no hesitation to send Diaz as he came around second base.
“No, not really. I mean, you could see it all the way in the way he was flying around the bases.”
Reliever Boby Johnson tossed two scoreless innings, but Robinson Hernandez and Blake Goldsberry allowed four runs to score in the top of the ninth. Kitchen, a lefty, retired two right-handed batters and slammed the door and earn his second save of the season.
“That was outstanding,” Kibler said of Kitchen. “Went with his best. The guy was ice cold in that situation right there.”
• Slow start: Hunter Goodman, promoted to the Indians by the Colorado Rockies on Monday, is off to a rocky start. In three games, the 22-year-old catcher/first baseman is 1 for 12 with eight strikeouts with a pair of fielding errors.
Goodman hit 22 homers in 73 games at Low-A Fresno to start the season. Little said Goodman might be pressing after the promotion.
“Probably. (The level) is not the same. He needs to make the adjustments. I’m sure he will. I mean, the kid had had a heck of a first half. Those are pretty big numbers, no matter where you’re at. There’s thunder in that bat.”
Goodman picked up his first hit with the Indians on an infield single in the eighth.
Goodman, 22, is the 20th-ranked prospect in the Rockies organization, according to MLB.com.