The Tri-City Dust Devils' previous six victories may have come rather easily -- each of them a shutout -- but it's good to know they can still win one at the wire, too.
The Dust Devils scraped out a 3-2 Northwest League win over the Boise Hawks on Monday at Gesa Stadium, giving Tri-City a third consecutive win to push its East Division lead to three games.
Dust Devils starter Chris Jensen, making his third professional start, earned his first win with 51/3 strong innings. Jensen, a 6-foot-4 right-hander out of the University of San Diego, commanded his fastball and used a good curveball to keep hitters off balance, allowing just one run on four hits and a pair of walks.
It wasn't a dominating night for the Colorado Rockies' sixth-round draft pick, but it was still special.
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"This is a great team to do it with," said Jensen, who lowered his ERA from 8.53 to 5.40 in one night. "Our hitters always finds a way to go out fighting, and our bullpen was outstanding."
Tri-City got on the board in the second inning after Ryan Casteel and Juan Crousset hit back-to-back doubles to make it 1-0. In the fourth, Casteel drove in Jared Simon with an RBI triple into the right field corner to make it 2-0.
The Dust Devils, who recorded consecutive shutout wins over Eugene and Boise, ran their scoreless innings streak to 27 2/3 until the top of the fifth. Then, with one out and runners on the corners, Wes Darvill laid down a perfect suicide squeeze up the third-base line and Dustin Harrington charged across home to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Hawks looked to tie the score in the top of the sixth, getting a pair of one-out singles from Pin-Chieh Chen and Rafael Lopez to chase Jensen. That put some pressure on Nelson Gonzalez to pitch the Dust Devils out of the jam.
But the 6-1 Dominican right-hander did just that, striking out Paul Hoilman and Harrington for the final two outs of the inning.
It was a nice return to form for the former NWL pitcher of the week, who allowed six earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings in his last outing.
"He didn't struggle at all," said Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio. "He came in with runners on first and second and stranded them."
Tri-City added a third run in the sixth inning. After Tim Smalling's leadoff single, Tyler Massey brought him home by driving a double to left center field for a 3-1 lead.
"That's the sign of a good team," Casteel said. "It's easy to win when your pitchers are throwing shutouts, but it's good to know we can battle for one."
Gonzalez absorbed an unearned run after an error by third baseman David Hernandez in the top of the seventh.
But left-handed reliever Ken Roberts came on to close out the final two innings for Tri-City, earning his team-high seventh save.
This is the first time the Dust Devils have used the closer-by-committee system, but it appears to be working. Rafael Suarez has six saves, and Gonzalez and Craig Bennigson have three apiece.
"It's a good way to go about it. It's good to know other guys can do it if needed," Roberts said. "We all trust each other."
Notes: Today's pitching matchups: Tri-City RHP Christian Bergman (5-3, 2.73 ERA) against Boise RHP Yao-Lin Wang (3-2, 2.57). Bergman is carrying a 23 1/3 scoreless-innings streak into the game. ... Dust Devils RHP Tyler Gagnon earned NWL pitcher of the week for the second straight week, extending his own scoreless innings streak to 19 with seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win at Eugene on Saturday. The 6-3 righty has given up just one earned run in his last 31 2/3 innings.