Dust Devils take 4 of 5 from S-K

July 22, 2013 

Tyler Anderson picked one of the best ways for a pitcher to make a first impression on his teammates Monday at Gesa Stadium.

The 6-foot-4 left-hander and first-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2011 allowed an unearned run on just one hit over five innings to pick up the win as the Tri-City Dust Devils topped Salem-Keizer 2-1.

But it wasn’t just Anderson’s win that impressed the Dust Devils. It was the way he carried himself while doing it.

“He really knew what type of pitcher he was,” Tri-City catcher Chris O'Dowd said of Anderson, in the Tri-Cities for a short rehabilitation stint from the Rockies’ advanced single-A club in Modesto. “He came out with a game plan, and he knew what he wanted to do. All I had to do was sit back and let him execute pitches. He really gave us a boost today. Playing after a night game, it helps to have an experienced guy on the mound throwing strikes.”

Dust Devils skipper Drew Saylor noticed Anderson’s professionalism right away after the former University of Oregon star joined the team to strengthen a strained rotator cuff.

“He’s very Greg Maddux-ish in his preparation and how he goes out and attacks hitters,” Saylor said. “He’s a great example for our young kids to see, (as in) this is how a guy who’s going to be in the big leagues is going to act.”

The Tri-City offense took advantage of a defensive error by right fielder Kentrell Hill in the bottom of the third. Wilfredo Rodriguez lifted a high flyball close to the track in right, but Hill couldn’t come up with it, landing Rodriguez on second.

O’Dowd brought him home with a triple down the left-field line to make it 1-0. It was O’Dowd’s third three-bagger of the year, tying him for second in the Northwest League.

“I think it falls in line with our mentality on the bases. Triples are more a result of being aggressive out of the box,” O’Dowd said. “It adds a little bit of energy and picks up the team. With my role hitting in the No. 2 hole, I’ve got to use my wheels as much as I can.”

Michael Benjamin then lined a sharp single into left center to bring home O’Dowd, giving Tri-City a 2-0 lead. That was more than enough for Anderson.

“I felt pretty smooth. You might expect something to go rocky with a new catcher, but O’Dowd did a really good job today. I found a rhythm, and everybody played good defense,” said Anderson, who threw mostly fastballs mixed in with a strong changeup and a slider. “I wanted to make sure I threw everything for strikes. If you’re coming back (from injury), that’s what you want to have down. At every level, you want to have that fastball command.”

Anderson allowed a leadoff bunt single to Randy Ortiz in the first inning, but got John Polonius to ground to shortstop Alec Mehrten to start a 6-4-3 double play. That was the only hit he gave up, although he did allow a run in the top of the fifth after a fielding error and wild pitch put Ortiz in scoring position.

Jeremy Sy then put the Volcanoes on the board with a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Jonathan Vargas relieved Anderson and kept a clean sheet for 2 2/3 innings. Jared McCrummen finished up the eighth to set the table for NWL saves leader Trent Daniel.

Daniel, a 17th-round draft pick out of Arkansas, struck out Ortiz and got Polonius to ground out before Sy singled to left. But Daniel got Sam Eberle to wave helplessly at a killer slider to earn his eighth save.

“It’s a pitch I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with the more I’ve thrown it with the new (NWL) baseball. I just had to get a feel for it,” Daniel said. “The only reason I get saves is because (the offense) sets me up. Of course, the pitching in front of me has been great. They’re the ones that give me a chance.”

Chase Johnson (1-1) took the loss for the Volcanoes, giving up two unearned runs over five innings.

Tri-City (19-19) brought its record to an even .500 for the first time since June 21 after taking four out of five games from first-half South Division champ Salem-Keizer (23-15). The Volcanoes don’t have to sweat, however, having already clinched a divisional playoff berth in September.

“It gives us a little flexibility. It’s good for character checks. I could have pinch hit for a couple of kids today, but I wanted to see how they did in certain situations,” S-K manager Gary Davenport said.

The Dust Devils, however, are thrilled to have some momentum, winning 13 of their last 18 after a 6-14 start. Based on the way Tri-City has played of late, a second-half North Division championship is well within the team’s reach.

“It’s on everybody’s mind. The same way we dug ourselves out of a hole in the first half, it will take persistence, attitude and effort on every single pitch,” Saylor said. “We can’t win the second-half title if we don’t win the first pitch tomorrow.”

Notes: Tri-City begins a three-game series against North Division rival Everett today at 7:05 p.m. The AquaSox clinched the first-half title Sunday. ... O’Dowd’s triple was the Dust Devils 14th of the year, tying them with Hillsboro for most in the NWL. Tri-City also leads the league with 55 stolen bases.

Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com

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