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Sports >  Spokane Indians

Ninth-inning homer ruins big day for Mateo Gil, Spokane Indians drop finale to Vancouver 5-4

July 24, 2022 Updated Sun., July 24, 2022 at 6:31 p.m.

For the second game in a row, a member of the Spokane Indians homered on his birthday. Mateo Gil made it twice as nice, going deep in the seventh and eighth innings on his 22nd birthday, to keep his team in the game.

Unfortunately for Gil and the Indians, the birthday magic ran out in the ninth inning.

Gil went 3 for 5 with three RBIs but Jommer Hernandez hit a solo homer in the ninth off reliever Tyler Ahearn and the Vancouver Canadians beat the Indians 5-4 in the finale of a three-game High-A Northwest League set at Avista Stadium on Sunday.

The fourth-place Indians (10-13) fell behind the first-place Canadians (16-7) by six games in the NWL second half. Vancouver has won 10 of its last 11 games.

Gil said he had some extra adrenaline going on his birthday.

“I mean, a little bit. I was in the lineup, so I always get a little bit when you’re in there.”

Trailing 4-0 in the seventh, Gil got the Indians on the board with a solo homer, his first in High-A.

“I was leading off the inning, new pitcher,” he said. “I was just looking for a fastball and he threw it in a good spot and I just put a good swing on it.”

Robby Martin reached via error, then Bladimir Restituyo and Braiden Ward both added bunt singles to load the bases with no outs.

Zac Veen struck out and Julio Carreras popped out on the infield, but Warming Bernabel’s broken-bat infield hit eluded shortstop Hugo Cardona and all hands were safe, pushing across another run to make it 4-2.

Colin Simpson led off the eighth with a single, then Gil lashed one down the right field line that clanged off the fair pole for a two-run homer to tie the game.

“I was definitely watching (it stay fair),” he said. “I feel like if it was about a couple of feet bigger of a field that might have went foul but happy it didn’t.”

It was his first two-homer game since Aug. 10, 2019, as a member of the Rookie League Johnson City Cardinals.

Restituyo walked, stole second and went to third on a long fly out, then the C’s intentionally walked Veen to face Carreras. Veen stole second, but Carreras bounced out to short to end the rally.

In the ninth, Hernandez greeted reliever Ahearn rudely, lining his first pitch of the game just over the tall wall in left center field.

Gil got one more chance with a runner on and two down in the ninth, but he grounded to third to end the game.

“He made some good pitches,” Gil said of reliever Justin Kelly, who was credited with the win. “I was hoping that last (grounder) would have went foul so I could have gotten at least one more (pitch) but you know, it is what it is.”

The Indians outhit Vancouver 12-10, but went 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base.

Vancouver jumped on Indians starter Mason Green early. Green issued a four-pitch walk to leadoff hitter Steward Berroa and one batter later, Leo Jimenez ripped a line drive over the short wall in right center for a two-run home run.

The C’s added two in the fourth – both with two down. Riley Tirotta laced a double down the right field line and scored on a single by Miguel Hiraldo. Hernandez followed with a double over the head of center fielder Bladimir Restituyo to make it 4-0.

Green allowed a pair of runners in the fifth, and Indians manager Scott Little made a call to the pen for Boby Johnson.

Green allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

“Slow start with a walk, then leaves one up and then the long ball hurts us again for the two spot,” pitching coach Ryan Kibler said of Green’s effort. “He just didn’t quite have that ‘put-away’ pitch.”

Johnson, the 25-year-old reliever making his 25th appearance of the season, struck out Jimenez and retried Damiano Palmegiani on a soft liner to second.

“Anytime you can come in and get a ‘K’ right there in that situation, especially first batter, it helps make everything go a little bit easier,” Johnson said.

He added a scoreless sixth inning to complete his assignment for the day.

“Come in and attack the strike zone,” Johnson said of the situation. “You know as a reliever, your job is to come in and throw strikes – not walk people is the biggest thing – so come in with people on base right there, definitely just attack the strike zone.”

“I liked Bobby’s approach today – he pitched off of the slider a little bit more,” Kibler said.

“He has started to realize that he can’t make as many mistakes as he did down the lower minor leagues,” Kibler added. “But the stuff is there. He did a nice job today.”

Being a middle reliever in the minors can be a thankless job sometimes.

“We’re here to do whatever the team needs us to do,” Johnson said.

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