If it seems as though the Tri-City Dust Devils are going into extra innings every night, really, it is only every other night.
And if it seems as though Derek Jones has not driven in a run all summer ...
Well, that one was true.
But the eighth-round pick out of Washington State finally got off the RBI schneid Sunday night, driving in Francisco Sosa with a sacrifice fly for the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning in the Dust Devils’ 2-1 win over the Boise Hawks in Northwest League baseball.
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“It’s good to get that first one out of the way,” Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio said. “I dropped him down into the six hole, and he came through. Hopefully that will get him going.”
The announced crowd of 1,392 at Gesa Stadium saw the Dust Devils play their fourth extra-inning game in eight days. They’ve won two of them.
And Sunday’s win happened thanks in part to Jones’ first professional RBI, coming on an at-bat where he fouled off three 1-2 offerings from Boise reliever Rafael Diplan (1-1) before driving a ball to center field for an easy sac fly.
“I knew he had nothing to beat me with. I just needed to be smart,” said Jones, who was reminded of his lack of run production every time he stepped to the plate and the big screen beyond the left-field wall flashed his numbers.
“I knew I hadn’t had an RBI yet, and I’m hitting in the three hole, four hole, five hole — those are definitely some good spots to get RBIs. I stopped thinking about my swing and focused on every single pitch. I was focused throughout the game, and that helped with that last at-bat.”
Sosa, who drove in the game’s first run in the fifth, and Patrick Hutcheson drew one-out walks to start the threat and moved up on a wild pitch before Miguel De Leon got an intentional pass to bring Jones to the plate.
Low-scoring games have been common place for Tri-City, last in the NWL in hitting. And Sunday night was no different. Both starting pitchers were throwing blanks well into the game.
Tri-City’s Josh Slaats put together his second consecutive strong start, giving up six hits and striking out six in seven innings. He walked one and hit one batter, encouraging numbers after he walked six batters in his first two starts covering eight innings.
“That was my downfall early in the season,” Slaats said. “I was not in the strike zone.”
Brook Hart and Seth Willoughby followed with three innings of scoreless relief, Willoughby throwing a 1-2-3 10th to make his first decision a win.
The Dust Devils took advantage of a couple of Boise base-running gaffes to escape trouble in the fourth and sixth innings.
The Hawks put together three singles against Slaats in the fourth but came away empty when Bijan Rademacher ran through a stop sign at second base on a soft single to right.
Rademacher was pulling into third as catcher Anthony Aguilera fielded the throw from the outfield. Problem was, Boise lead runner Chadd Krist was holding at third, and the ensuing rundown left runners at second and third and two out, instead of bases loaded and one out.
When Slaats ran into a hiccup in the sixth with a one-out single and his only walk, he then erased the runner at first with a pickoff.
“The last couple of outings he’s been around the zone, he’s pitched to contact,” Ocasio said. “In this ballpark, if you don’t walk people, you have a chance to win games.”
Boise starter James Pugliese flirted with trouble early on, giving up a two-out double to Sosa in the first inning and one-out singles to Jones and Jarod Berggren in the second.
The Dust Devils came away empty both times, and Pugliese found his stride in the third, striking out four batters over the next two frames before leaving after the fourth as his pitch count nudged above 70.
Reliever Roderik Pichardo came in and promptly have up the leadoff double to Aguilera, and the Dust Devils were in business for the first time, with Sosa eventually driving in the game’s first run with a sac fly to center.
As for all those extra-inning games, Jones said he may be new to pro ball, but he has theory.
“We’re limiting teams for the most part to one, two, three runs a game,” he said, praising the pitching staff and defense. “When our hitting picks up, we’ll start scoring runs, cashing in base runners. Then we shouldn’t be going to extra innings.”
NOTES: Dust Devils 3B Matt Argyropoulos left the game in the third with a strained abdominal muscle. Ocasio said he would be evaluated today. ... Today’s scheduled starters are Taylor Scott (0-1, 2.25) for Boise and Ben Hughes (0-2, 2.81) for Tri-City. ... Some former Dust Devils are getting it done at the next level with Asheville. Outfielder Brian Humphries is hitting leadoff for the Tourists, batting .310 in 65 games. Tyler Massey is hitting .333 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs in 61 games.
w Kevin Anthony: 582-1403; firstname.lastname@example.org