Just as they had for most of the last four games, the Spokane Indians batters struggled to get much offense going against the Eugene Emeralds on Monday.
But in the eighth, they showed signs of strength, hitting three hard outs.
And in the ninth, with two outs, Obie Ricumstrict on first base and Cristian Inoa down to his last strike, the Indians’ No. 9 hitter lofted a home run that barely cleared Avista Stadium’s left-field wall to tied the game at 4, and Luis Asuncion’s RBI single in the 10th gave the Indians a 5-4, walk-off victory.
“I was focused on the fastball,” Inoa said of his ninth-inning home run, his first of the season. “I was looking for it because he wasn’t throwing the slider for a strike in that at-bat.”
It marked the second time in five games – four and a half of which were played without their best hitter, the injured Blaine Crim – that the Indians mustered more than two runs.
But it was also their third win in those five games, thanks to a pitching staff that has allowed just nine runs over that span. The Indians have now won four consecutive series.
After winning the North Division in the first half of the Northwest League season, the Indians (15-10) lead it again by two games over the Tri-City Dust Devils (13-12) with 13 games remaining.
Spokane has already clinched a playoff spot by virtue of that first-half title.
But on Monday it looked as if the Emeralds (14-11) would be headed home with the league’s best second-half record, largely due to their catcher, Alexander Guerra.
Guerra was playing his 11th game in the Northwest League and entered the game with a batting average of .114 (4 for 35). But he drove in all four of Eugene’s runs, with a two-run double in the first and solo home runs in the third and eighth, his first two homers of the season.
Through nine innings the Indians had just six at-bats with runners in scoring position. Both hits in such situations came in the bottom of the third, when Derwin Barreto and David Garcia each hit RBI singles, making the score 3-2.
For Garcia, the single marked the 22nd consecutive game in which he has reached base safely.
It remained 3-2 through four scoreless middle innings, before Guerra’s second blast gave the Emeralds a 4-2 lead.
Yet the Indians’ pitchers kept the game within reach. After Theo McDowell allowed three earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, Juan Mejia pitched through the end of the sixth inning, striking out two while allowing two hits and a walk. Joe Corbett (2-0) got the last out of the 10th and the win.
“When we look at the course of the entire season, (pitching is) the one thing that’s stayed real consistent. That and our defense has been pretty solid,” said Spokane manager Kenny Hook. “The bullpen, the guys we bring in (have been) able to give us a lot when we don’t hit, hold games close and give us a chance to win at the end.”
The Indians will start a three-game series Tuesday in Everett before returning for a seven-game homestand, the team’s last, that starts on Friday.
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