Gesa magic hard to find for Dust Devils

By Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerAugust 22, 2009 

PASCO — Home-field advantage.

To most teams, it's a chance to pick up a few wins in front of their own appreciative fans.

To the Tri-City Dust Devils, it's a contradiction in terms.

The Dust Devils dropped their fourth straight game Friday at Gesa Stadium, a 7-4 win by Spokane that dropped Tri-City's East Division lead to five games. The Dust Devils (34-26) have lost seven of their last 10 in Pasco.

It's Tri-City's slimmest lead since July 10 -- comfortable enough with 16 games left in the Northwest League regular season, but the Dust Devils play 10 of their final 16 at their home park, where they hold the NWL's worst home record at just 14-14.

"We just play better on the road," said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio, whose team is a league-best 20-12 away from home. "We're probably putting out the same effort at home, but we're getting better results on the road. We've just got to continue to give good effort."

For the second straight night, Spokane (29-31) tapped into its power, getting solo home runs from Kyle Murphy and Thomas Mendonca as the Indians won for the 16th time in the last 22 games.

"It all started with a meeting in the clubhouse. From that point, we turned things around," said Murphy, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including an RBI double in the ninth inning to cap Spokane's scoring. "The big thing tonight was (starter Ben) Hurley. He might not have had his best stuff, but he battled for five innings."

Hurley (5-2) got the win, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on six hits through five innings. Rob Scahill (0-4) took the loss for Tri-City, giving up four runs -- three earned -- on five hits in four innings.

The Dust Devils' magic number remains at 12 games -- the number of Tri-City wins and Spokane losses needed to clinch a second division title in three years.

The teams battled back and forth through the first three innings, but it was Murphy's homer in the fourth that broke a 2-2 tie and gave Spokane a lead it wouldn't relinquish. The Indians got two more runs in the fifth for a 5-2 lead.

The Dust Devils weren't done yet. With runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, Jeremiah Sammy hit a liner that bounced off the shin of Indians reliever Geuris Grullon, who then threw wide of first base. Alex Feinberg scored on the play, and Joey Wong took third. Grullon was replaced by Reiner Bermudez, whose first pitch bounced past catcher Zach Zaneski to the backstop to score Wong and cut the lead to 5-4.

But Spokane put the finishing touches on the win with two more runs in the ninth.

"We're not doing the little things," said Tri-City first baseman Ben Paulsen, who drove in two runs. "We had a hard time getting guys in from third base."

The Dust Devils were just 3-of-14 with runners in scoring position.

"It's not like we're throwing these games away," Ocasio said. "We just couldn't come up with the big hit.

"There's no panic. We're still five games up."

Notes: Sammy, who leads Tri-City regulars with a .314 average, extended his hitting streak to five games. ... The Dust Devils wore camouflage jersey tops to pay tribute to the U.S. armed forces and sold the jerseys in a silent auction to benefit American Citizens Encouraging Support (A.C.E.S.). The organization, founded in 1990, sends cards, letters and packages to troops stationed overseas and sends comfort kits to the wounded.

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