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Reliever helps Indians deliver victory over Vancouver

Ryan Rodebaugh makes the most of his one or two innings every fourth or fifth day.

Rodebaugh improved to 2-0, with an earned-run average of 0.00 over 10 innings, as the Spokane Indians rallied for a 7-2 win over the Vancouver Canadians to open a five-game Northwest League series Tuesday at Avista Stadium.

“I like going out knowing I can give it the maximum effort every time, rather than having to pace myself,” Rodebaugh said after the Indians improved to 7-4 at home in front of 4,457 fans.

The Indians (12-12) trailed 2-1 when Rodebaugh relieved starter Chad Bell in the sixth inning. Brett Nicholas’ two-run single in the sixth put the Indians ahead 3-2 and Clark Murphy’s bases-clearing double during a four-run eighth gave them breathing room.

The outcome allowed Spokane to remain 1 1/2 games behind Boise (14-11) in the East Division.

Vancouver (12-13), which won four of five from Spokane during a late-June series in Canada, dropped to 3-9 on the road.

Vancouver is last in the NWL in runs (87) and home runs (eight), but the Canadians have made their mark with pitching, as evidenced by their league-leading 3.26 ERA.

One exception has been Tuesday’s starter, Matt Thomson, who had struggled to a 0-2 record this year with an ERA of 10.29.

Thomson, however, baffled the Indians, allowing one single and striking out four during four shutout innings.

Bell, making his fifth start, nearly matched Thomson. He pitched four perfect innings but had a letdown in the third, with two outs and Josh Whitaker at second base after a walk and delayed stolen base. Three consecutive singles by the top of the Canadians’ order produced two runs.

Spokane ended the shutout against Jake Brown (1-1) in the fifth. Danny Lima smoked a one-out double to left under the glove of third baseman Tony Thompson. Lima scored when Murphy’s two-out dribbler went under the glove of second baseman Nino Leyja.

Brown, who entered with an ERA of 1.35, met his match in the sixth when Spokane pieced together two singles, a fielder’s choice and a walk to take the lead for good. Nicholas hit a 0-1 off-speed pitch to right field for a two-run single.

“It was a relief, not so much for me but for the team,” said Nicholas, who was hitting .245 with six RBIs coming in.

“I definitely think that’s my biggest hit (as an Indian), because at the time we were down 2-1 and struggling to get some hits,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas, from the University of Missouri, made his Spokane debut on June 27 and had struck out 15 times in 53 at-bats.

“They say it takes about 100 at-bats to get your feet under you, so I’m learning day in and day out, and enjoying every part of it,” Nicholas said.

Rodebaugh, who has 16 strikeouts in six appearances, set down Vancouver in the seventh and allowed Francisco Mendoza and Zach Osborne to polish off the win.

“I’m lucky having this success to start out (my professional career),” Rodebaugh said. “I couldn’t ask for a better start.”

Murphy, who also played for Spokane last season, entered the game with a .318 batting average and was aboard all four times. His three-run double to left-center in the eighth came on a Pedro Vidal fastball on the outside corner.

“In that situation, with the bases full, they can’t afford to fall behind (in the count) or walk the guy,” said Murphy, who is sharing time with Andrew Clark at first base.

The Indians snapped a two-game losing streak after finishing a five-game set with Everett, which leads the NWL in winning percentage.

“We’ve been a very solid team after the first week (starting 1-7), and we’re only getting better,” Murphy said.

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