For most of Friday’s game at chilly Avista Stadium, Spokane Indians hitters had a rough night at the plate, first against one of the top pitching prospects in the game, then a lefty reliever with a funky delivery.
But baseball games are played to nine innings, and the Indians are becoming pretty efficient at generating offense in the last inning.
Robby Martin Jr. came off the bench to hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Indians beat the Emeralds 4-3 for their third walk-off win in four games.
Martin was still buzzing from the excitement after the game.
“I was just kind of using that adrenaline going into the pinch-hit and tried to do whatever I could to get those two runs across,” Martin said.
Martin, who is the usual starter in left field and hitting .143 in 83 at-bats, said he thinks that’s the first walk-off homer he’s hit in his life.
“It’s definitely different coming into the game, especially when it’s cold sitting on the bench,” he said. “Luckily, I got told the previous inning to get loose so I had some time going out there.”
“Robby Martin has struggled for most of the year – I don’t think he’s had a great BP,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “He went up there looking for a good pitch to hit and he got it. It’s awesome.”
Grant Lavigne doubled to lead off the ninth, and Daniel Montano drew a walk from Nick Morreale.
A bunt moved both runners up. After Zac Veen struck out looking, Martin crushed the first pitch he saw over the wall in right-center.
Martin’s fireworks ended what was otherwise mostly a pitching duel.
Emeralds starter Kyle Harrison is the San Francisco Giants’ top pitching prospect in the minor leagues.
The 20-year-old lefty and Giants’ third-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft entered play averaging more than two strikeouts per inning – 51 in 24 innings pitched for the Emeralds this season – with an earned-run average of less than two runs per game.
He more than lived up to the billing.
Harrison struck out eight over five shutout innings and allowed four hits and one walk, throwing 57 of his 81 pitches for strikes.
“He’s given everybody in the league fits,” Little said. “He made a couple pretty good hitters tonight look not too good. I respect that guy. He’s got some really good stuff. He’s a young guy. He’s a phenom. And you know, we had a chance to get to him early and we just didn’t get done.”
The Indians only threatened Harrison twice. They had runners at second and third with one out in the second, but Harrison struck out Bladimir Restituyo and Cristopher Navarro to end the threat.
In the fourth, Lavigne and Montano hit back-to-back one-out singles, but Harrison got a popup and grounder to get out of it.
Harrison exited after five innings, and left reliever Juan Sanchez allowed one hit and struck out four in three innings.
Indians starter Will Ethridge matched Harrison’s zeros on the scoreboard for five innings.
But fellow Giants prospect Marco Luciano, the No. 13 prospect in all of the minors, according to MLB.com, crushed a two-run homer in the sixth – his third in as many games and seventh of the season, following a triple off the wall by Hunter Bishop.
“I can’t be missing inside, or you know fastballs up and sliders just hanging – just can’t be doing that right now,” Ethridge said. “Just got unlucky and you know, they did what they should have done those baseballs.”
Ethridge made it through the inning but departed thereafter. He allowed eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts and just the two runs.
“I just felt like I got lucky,” Ethridge said. “I got real lucky – didn’t have my best stuff, didn’t have my best command and my defense was out there helping me out a lot.
“I can’t give enough credit those guys battling for me and helping me out, getting double play balls, it makes me feel good that they got my back out there.”
Julio Carreras led off the Indians’ half of the seventh with his third home run of the season to make it a one-run game, but the Emeralds loaded the bases against Indians reliever Luke Taggert in the eighth and pushed an insurance run across on a sacrifice fly to center.
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