It was Fireworks Friday at Avista Stadium. But before the fans were treated to the postgame display, the teams provided some on the field – as the benches cleared twice late in the game.
Words were heated – but no punches were thrown – thanks to some quick-working umpires and the respective coaching staffs.
But the Spokane Indians couldn’t find any offensive fireworks late though and the Vancouver Canadians took the first game of a three-game Northwest League series 6-3.
Will Robertson and Ronny Brito homered for Vancouver. Starter Alex Nolan limited the Indians to two runs over the first four innings and four relievers kept the home team in check.
The Indians (2-2 second half) went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 – eight in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
“I think maybe the guys were trying to do too much,” Indians manager Kenny Hook said. “I liked our at-bats. I mean, I think we only had one inning there after they got the two (runs) where the inning was really quick. But the at-bats were good all night. We put ourselves in situations to create some runs but just couldn’t get that big hit.”
The fracas happened in the eighth inning. The Indians trailed 5-2 when Jonah McReynolds (3 for 4) led off the home half with a solo home run, his fourth of the season.
With one down, Starling Joseph singled and Cristian Inoa laced one into the right-field corner for a double.
With first base open and two down, reliever Mike Pascoe hit Kellen Strahm to load the bases. Strahm left the box slowly and Pascoe took exception to something, chasing Strahm up the line, jawing at him. The benches emptied, but order was restored quickly, with the umpires restraining Pascoe and Strahm.
Pascoe came back to strike out Blaine Crim looking on a borderline call to end the inning. Pascoe gestured wildly at the Indians’ bench, causing the players to rush the field again. Pascoe had to be restrained by his teammates, and he was dragged back to his dugout by teammates and coaches.
“I don’t know what Strahm said,” Hook said. “But obviously, I don’t think the kid was trying to hit him in that situation. So that kind of sparked it, but I wasn’t, you know, fond of how he reacted after that.
“There’s no need for anybody out here to show someone up like that. I mean, I get it. It’s an emotional strikeout there. But, you know, I would hope that our guys would never taunt the other team, because I think that’s what that was – he’s taunting there. So that kind of set me off that he acted like that.”
“I just – I didn’t really say anything. I just looked at him,” Strahm said. “And, you know, he said something first, as I was walking to first.
“I don’t really know what was the intention of hitting me and looking at me. I’m not into getting into scuffles. I mean, we can call this a rivalry if we have to, but you know, it was just a fastball inside, took my base and went to first.”
Indians starter Billy Layne Jr. was lifted after three innings and 34 pitches – 24 for strikes. He didn’t allow a hit, issued one walk and struck out three over three innings.
Layne was the Texas Rangers’ 11th-round pick in the 2018 draft out of Seton Hall. He started the season injured. After his rehab assignment ran out, he was assigned to the Indians’ roster. He has made seven appearances in Spokane and pitched to a 2.92 earned-run average.
To make room on the roster, pitcher Ryan Garcia – the Rangers’ second-round pick this year from UCLA – was removed from the roster.
The Indians got on the board in the fourth as Scott Kapers raced home from third on a dropped pickoff attempt. Joseph delivered an RBI single later in the inning to even it at 2.
The Indians loaded the bases with two down in the bottom half of the sixth, but Inoa swung through a full-count breaking ball. The Indians had two on with one out in the seventh, but Luis Asuncion and Kapers struck out to leave them stranded.
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