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Indians look for lift after sweep by AquaSox

By John Blanchette Correspondent

The Spokane Indians are a team in the market for an emotional lift and a change of scenery.

They’re guaranteed at least one of those things tonight.

After a 3-5 opening home stand to the Northwest League season, the Indians take their erratic act on the road for a five-game series at Salem-Keizer – with a new face in the starting rotation.

That would be Texas Rangers No. 1 draft pick Dillon Tate, who’ll get his first – abbreviated – start on the mound.

Coming off a third straight loss to the North Division-leading Everett AquaSox – this one an 11-4 pasting in front of 5,441 at Avista Stadium – the Indians are grasping for answers.

“Every guy we have – including myself – we’re going to mess up,” said left fielder LeDarious Clark, whose four-hit night was the Indians’ only real highlight. “This is a game of failure. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team, but we’re just going through a little adversity right now.”

This one unraveled early, and in a manner all too common during the Indians’ opening stand:  giving the guests extra outs.

Drew Jackson’s two-run single had staked the AquaSox to a lead against Spokane starter Emerson Martinez (0-2) in the second inning, but the Indians immediately knotted it up – on two sharp hits and two balls that never made it out of the infield. The last one was a slow roller by Clark down the line that Everett third baseman Logan Taylor picked up before it trickled foul – at least in the eyes of umpire Jordan Johnson – as Ti’Quan Forbes steamed home.

Everett manager Rob Mummau came out to argue, but he needn’t have bothered. His Sox would put up seven runs in the third, the carnage starting with a long fly by Yordi Calderon that Spokane center fielder Darius Day ran down – and then dropped as he fell.

Five straight Everett hits would follow – two of them bunts that the Indians couldn’t corral quickly enough turn into outs. There was also another error – right fielder Sherman Lacrus’ errant throw allowing a run to score – before Martinez got a merciful hook, though reliever Tyler Davis fared just marginally better.

But to Spokane manager Tim Hulett, an ominous tone was set before that pratfall.

“You think, oh, man, seven runs, but in the first two innings we had numerous opportunities to score,” he said. “We should have been up 5-2 and that would have changed the whole complexion of the game.”

Clark tried to change it back, pretty much single-handedly. His four hits included two mammoth triples, and he also stole three bases – including Spokane’s first of the season and the front end of a double steal in the first inning.

“Right now, I’m just trying to find my comfort zone,” said the Rangers’ 12th-round pick out of West Florida, who’s hitting .360. “I still have some work to do, but I’m getting there.”

That’s obviously the case for his teammates, too.

“We’re got some little bits of the game we’re still green at,” said Hulett. “We’re playing a couple of 18-year-olds in the infield and doing the right thing sometimes takes a little time. When all this settles down, we’ve got a pretty good team.”

Tate could make them better, though he’ll be on a short leash. The parent club plans on having him pitch once a week, and probably no more than 25 innings all season.

“But we’re all excited and ready to see him pitch, that’s for sure,” Hulett said.

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