PASCO — One rather large question loomed near the end of the Tri-City Dust Devils' 3-2 victory over the Yakima Bears on Wednesday at Gesa Stadium.
Was Tyler Massey's one-out flyball in the eighth inning to centerfielder Westley Moss deep enough to score Tim Smalling from third base?
Didn't matter. Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio, a Northwest League veteran since 2001 and Dust Devils manager since 2006, wanted Smalling to test Moss, a second-year outfielder out of the University of Nevada, with the pressure on in a 2-2 game.
"I was sending him no matter what. We wanted (Moss) to force him to make a perfect throw," Ocasio said. "He's got a good arm, but not a cannon."
Ocasio's decision paid off, as Smalling took off right as Moss caught the ball about 30 feet off the infield dirt and slid in just ahead of a pretty good throw.
"My mindset was: I'm gone," said Smalling, who finished 2-for-4 on the day with two runs scored. "I heard the third baseman deking a cutoff throw, but then I saw the catcher going for the swipe tag."
The run put Tri-City up for good and gave the team yet another comeback victory.
"I love the perseverance on this team. Nobody ever quits," Smalling said. "We gave up a couple runs in the eighth but nobody got down."
The win keeps the Dust Devils (18-15) tied for first place in the East Division with Spokane (18-15) heading into a three-game series against the Indians at Avista Stadium beginning today at 6:30 p.m.
With six games remaining before the end of the first half, every game counts, and Tri-City's ability to fight for victories can serve them well despite a 5-9 record away from home.
"It's happened many times. We get behind and then come right back and score," Ocasio said. "It's a good sign that we'll be in it all the way to the end."
Dust Devils starter Ricardo Ferrer was lights out against Yakima, going 5 1/3 innings before allowing a hit and lasting into the eighth inning. That's the longest start by any Tri-City pitcher this season.
Ferrer spotted up his fastball early on, and mixed in a good curve and solid changeup to keep hitters off balance. He needed just 62 pitches to get through the first six innings.
But he admitted it was difficult not to think about the no-hitter.
"Yeah, I was a little nervous. You feel excited whenever you have a no-hitter. You don't want to make a mistake," said Ferrer, who lowered his ERA from 5.22 to 4.46.
Ferrer gave up his first hit with one out in the sixth, a line drive to center by leadoff man Raul Navarro, and allowed two more with one out in the seventh. A double play helped him get out of that jam, however.
Ferrer, a 6-2 right-hander, lost his shutout in the eighth, when Tyler Bream led off the inning with a line-drive home run to left field to cut the lead to 2-1.
"That was a mistake. My catcher (Richard Pirkle) called for a fastball away, and I left it up," said Ferrer, who allowed another single before being replaced by Nelson Gonzalez.
"I'm happy with the job I did," Ferrer said. "I'm happy we could win the game."
Gonzalez, who lowered his NWL-leading ERA to 1.14, gave up an RBI single to Zach Jones to tie the score but kept a clean sheet in the ninth to improve to 5-0.
"When I came in, I felt the adrenaline. It was really high," said Gonzalez through an interpreter -- Ferrer. "When I got the third out in the eighth, it started to go down. By the ninth, I felt really relaxed."
Yakima reliever Greg Robinson (0-3) took the loss, allowing a run on two hits in the eighth inning.