After a mistake-filled Opening Night filled with frustration, the Tri-City Dust Devils got a chance to celebrate their first Northwest League victory of 2013, beating the Vancouver Canadians 4-3 on Saturday at Gesa Stadium.
They did it with the way first-year Dust Devils manager Drew Saylor wanted them to: by taking care of fundamentals first.
“I told the guys after the game that the mark of a good team is guys that don’t give up,” said Saylor, who picked up his first professional managerial win. “The guy who keeps throwing punches is going to make things happen, and we did that.”
The stat box was a clear reflection of that, especially in the pitching lines. Three Tri-City pitchers combined to allow just one walk after the staff allowed 11 the night before.
Dust Devils starter Jayson Aquino gave up two runs in the first inning on a walk and two hits, but he kept a clean sheet for the next four innings.
The defense was a big part of that. Catcher Chris O’Dowd gunned down Michael Reeves at third base after a wild pitch to help prevent a run in the second.
“O’Dowd had an unbelievable game. I can’t say enough about his effort and his energy on every single play,” Saylor said.
Then, second baseman Cesar Galvez and shortstop Alec Mehrten bailed Aquino out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third by starting an inning-ending double play.
Carlos Estevez (1-0) picked up the win for Tri-City, allowing a run — a solo home run by Jason Leblebijian in the top of the eighth — on two hits over three innings. Trent Blank earned his first save of the year with a perfect ninth.
The Dust Devils’ offense didn’t get many hits — just four on the night — but they sure made those hits count.
Vancouver starter Kyle Anderson was perfect through four innings, but he walked Jose Monzon to lead off the fifth and gave up a single to the next batter, Jeff Popick. Monzon went to third on Popick’s single and scored on a grounder to short by Chris O’Dowd.
Mehrten drove in Popick with a single to right.
Cesar Galvez set the table for the go-ahead run after a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth and stealing second and third. With two outs, Monzon and Sean Dwyer hit back-to-back RBI doubles to give Tri-City a 4-2 lead.
Monzon went 1-for-2 with two runs scored for the Dust Devils. Dwyer, an 11th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast, was making his first professional appearance.
“He competed the way I expected him to,” Saylor said. “When you’ve been cold sitting on the bench for five or six innings, you have to take what you get.”
Justin James took the loss for the Canadians, allowing two runs on two hits in the sixth. Leblebijian and Jordan Leyland each went 3-for-4 to lead Vancouver.