By his standards, Blaine Crim has been in a little bit of a slump. He’s hit in 14 of 16 games in August, but he’s gone 2 for 12 in his last three games.
He “only” picked up one hit on Sunday, but it was a big one.
The Northwest League’s average and RBI leader smacked a grand slam in the eighth inning to open a big lead and the Spokane Indians beat the Hillsboro Hops 7-4 in the third of a four-game series between division leaders at Avista Stadium.
The Indians (19-12) stayed at least two games ahead of Tri-City in the North Division second-half standings, while Hillsboro (19-12) is three games ahead of Salem-Keizer in the South.
Crim finished 1 for 5 and is hitting .352. He raised his RBI total to 44.
“The last at-bat is definitely big time and I kind of got to feel my swing again,” Crim said. “Tomorrow is just going to kind of be a ‘feel the swing in the morning and pregame’ kind of day.”
He added that despite the big swing, he doesn’t feel like he’s in a groove.
“I’m definitely missing pitches that I shouldn’t that could have helped us out earlier in the game,” he said. “Glad that I was able to get that one but you know, I can’t take off because I don’t feel great yet.”
“I’m sure that felt really good for him,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said of the slam. “He’s been up in those situations a lot in this series so far and has just been, you know, getting good pitches to hit, surprisingly. But he’s been just missing them, I think maybe trying to do too much or being a little quick with his front side.”
The Indians led 3-2 entering the eighth looking for some insurance. Hillsboro reliever Yan Sanchez picked up two quick outs, but then hit Jake Hoover. Eduardo Herrera took over on the mound and Derwin Barreto laced a single to right, sending Hoover to third. Kellen Strahm then drew a base on balls to set the table.
Crim clubbed a 1-0 fastball over the 365-foot mark in left center for his eighth homer of the year to blow the game open.
Crim said he was hunting fastball all the way with the bases loaded.
“Definitely,” he admitted. “We had some information on (Herrera), he’s one of their hardest throwers, especially out of the pen – averages like 96. So I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to be in-between pitches. I had to set a pitch and a location on that guy.”
“We love him up in that situation,” Hook said. “And great at-bats leading up to it to get the bases loaded.”
Hillsboro pushed two across in the ninth, including a homer by Tristin English, but Nick Laio held on for his second save of the season.
Indians starter Justin Slaten cruised through his two scoreless innings of work. He didn’t allow a hit or walk and struck out one.
It was Slaten’s second straight scoreless appearance and fourth this season. The Texas Rangers’ third-round pick out of New Mexico has had his innings limited with the Indians after throwing 82 1/3 for the Lobos earlier this season.
In the fourth inning, the Hops got back-to-back one-out doubles by Jorge Barrosa and English against reliever Luis Rosario to make it 1-0.
The Indians put up three in the bottom half. Andy Yerzy at first couldn’t handle Crim’s bouncer, then Luis Asuncion singled to left. Kenen Irizarry hit a grounder to Yerzy, who fumbled it, then made a bad toss to the pitcher covering.
Crim scored and the runners ended up at second and third on the error.
Scott Kapers followed and lined a single to left. Two scored on the play.
Kapers has been limited to 99 at-bats over 25 games this season as the Indians have carried three or four catchers on the roster all year.
“I just did what I had to do and just wanted to win,” Kapers said. “That’s all I want to do when I get in there is win.”
“I have a lot of confidence (in Kapers),” Hook said. “Even though his batting average may be low, if you if you study his season he’s never an easy out in there. He’ll always battle an at-bat.”
The Hops made it a one-run game in the sixth. With two on and no outs, English laced a single to left to make it 3-2. But Rosario (4-1) struck out cleanup hitter Jesus Marriaga, and Lioiver Peguero flied to second to keep it a one-run game.
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