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Spokane Indians

Colin Simpson homers, knocks in three as Spokane Indians down Vancouver 11-2

In Friday night’s game, Spokane Indians starter Evan Shawver got injured and didn’t make it out of the first inning, setting up the bullpen for a long night – and potentially making it a rough pitching weekend in a three-game series against the Northwest League-leading Vancouver Canadians.

With that looming, it was vitally important for Saturday’s starter, Mike Ruff, to give the Indians a strong start.

It certainly helped that the offense came through early – and in bunches.

Ruff tossed six innings, allowing just one run on three hits, and the Indians beat the Canadians 11-2 at Avista Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s good that we get three games against them,” Ruff said. “I’m trying to knock them back a little bit and bring us up, to make the, you know, that five game difference a little bit smaller.”

The Indians (10-12 second half) – who banged out 14 hits – remain in fourth place, five games behind the Canadians (15-7), who had a nine-game win streak snapped.

Ruff (6-5) threw 91 pitches, 55 for strikes. He walked one, struck out six and hit two batters.

“Ruff pitched really well, around the zone,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “He got ahead in the count. It was a big night. We needed a good night – swinging the bats and pitching, and we got it.”

“Saving the bullpen was a key after last night using a lot of pen,” Ruff said. “But these guys were on a (nine-game) winning streak. That was the biggest pressure, I didn’t want to keep let them keep going. They were about to get hit double digits.”

Colin Simpson led the hit parade on his 26th birthday, going 3 for 4 with a homer, double and three RBIs.

Simpson said, “it always feels good,” to have a big game on his birthday.

“I treat my birthday as any other day on the field,” he said. “I just get out there and play hard and have fun. I mean, it is always special at the end of the night to have a good game on your birthday.”

“I got to see my old ‘Tank’. That’s the guy that can hit and swing it,” Little said. “He’s been scuffling a little bit, but he’s working hard and he was on tonight. We saw what he’s capable of. So, yeah, I’m very happy.”

The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning on two singles and a walk. Drew Romo walked to force in the first run and Warming Bernabel bounced to second to bring in another.

Hunter Goodman hit a comebacker and Vancouver pitcher Jimmy Rollins made a heads-up play to cut down Julio Carreras trying to sneak home.

Bladimir Restituyo singled to lead off the second and scored from first on a double by Julio Carreras to make it 3-0.

The offense continued in the third. Goodman hit a blooper to right, then Simpson unloaded on a fastball to straight center for his team-leading 12th home run of the season. Ronaiker Palma followed with a homer to left, his third of the year, making it 6-0 after three.

The Indians tacked on another run in the fourth as Romo walked and later came in on a fielder’s choice. They scored four in the sixth, with Goodman and Simpson contributing RBI doubles.

Game notes

• Quick exit: Eddy Diaz led off the game with a single but hit first base awkwardly and fell as he rounded the bag. After consultation with the trainer he stayed in, but just for one play as it was apparent he was in discomfort. Diaz was replaced by Nic Kent.

Little said he didn’t have any information about the extend of Diaz’ injury after the game. 

• Smart move: After drawing a walk in the sixth, Zac Veen tagged up from first on a flyout to center. The next batter, Bernabel, singled, allowing Veen to score after the heads-up play taking the extra base.

“He’s a baseball player with great instincts on the bases,” Little said. “You’ve seen it all year – he runs like a deer. He didn’t swing the bat very well last few days, but you can see when he gets on he makes a lot of things happen.”

• Close, but…: Simpson finished a triple away from the cycle.

“I told (Little) before that at-bat, I said if ‘I hit this ball in the gap, I’m not stopping running. I’m running and if I get thrown out, I get thrown out.’ He just started laughing and said ‘All right.’ “