Fireworks filled the sky after the Tri-City Dust Devils stomped the Spokane Indians 10-0 in their home opener Tuesday night, which seemed a fitting way to end Jim McDade’s first career start in a Dust Devils uniform.
The 24-year-old right-hander lasted seven innings, giving up just two hits and striking out 10 with a fastball that sat in the high 80s, a change-up and a breaking ball that Spokane batters chased out of the zone all night.
“He’s got a feel for three pitches, his breaking ball, his change-up, his fastball, and he knows how to pitch,” Dust Devils manager Ben Fritz said of McDade. “He’s able to command all three in the zone, and command them out of the zone when he wants to. And he was on point tonight, he was really fun to watch.
“Had we not been so early in the year, I would have liked to send him back out (for another inning), but just where we’re at, seven was enough.”
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Travis Radke and Chasen Ford each tossed an inning to close out the game for the Dust Devils, recording two strikeouts a piece to bring the Dust Devils total for the night to 14.
It wasn’t McDade’s first game in a stadium atmosphere — he made five appearances with the Low-A Fort Wayne Tin Caps this spring, posting a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. But after spending a full season playing complex ball in the Arizona Summer League last year, there was no luster lost in starting the home opener for the Dust Devils.
“It’s so much better,” McDade said. “All last summer I was at the complex, and I got the taste of some fans and stadium baseball in Fort Wayne, but the home opener crowd didn’t disappoint tonight.”
McDade had a familiar face behind the plate in Tucker Pennell — the battery played together in the AZL. Pennell, who went undrafted out of the University of Arkansas last year, had a monster night at the plate, mashing two two-run doubles and a couple singles to pace Tri-City’s attack.
“I just wasn’t trying to do too much,” Pennell said. “A lot of times in situations like that, with runners on base, you try and do too much. I was just trying to be on time and attack the inside half, let the rest happen from there.”
Pennell’s first double came in the second inning, driving in Boomer White and Tre Carter to open the scoring. He singled in the fourth and came around to score on a throwing error after a bunt by Josh Magee, then put the game out of reach with his second double in the fifth, again plating White and Tre Carter.
With the game pretty well in hand already, the Dust Devils flashed some power in the bottom of the seventh against Spokane reliever Ronny Carvajal. Luis Almanzar doubled to lead off the inning, then was followed by triples by Luis Asuncion and Carter (went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI), and singles by White and Pennell, which chased Carvajal from the game without recording an out. A two-out single by Kelvin Melean stuck Carvajal with a fourth earned run and gave Tri-City its 10-0 advantage.
“It’s fun to be a part of any game like that, but especially the home opener, give your fans something to cheer about,” Fritz said. “The guys, they were on the fastball all night, I think we did a good job laying off some tough pitches and didn’t miss the ones that we got. We took advantage of opportunities and continued to do that throughout the game.
“No one really wasted an at-bat.”
With the win, the Dust Devils improved their league-best 5-1 record. The Vancouver Canadians are the only team with a 4-2 record after Tuesday’s games.
The Dust Devils and Indians (3-3) will play the middle game of their three-game series at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Tri-City’s Opening Day starter RHP Emmanuel Ramirez (0-0, 4.76 ERA) will face Spokane’s LHP Cole Ragans (0-0, 9.00 ERA) in that one, with Tri-City lefty Adrian Morejon (0-0, 3.00 ERA) going against RHP Tyler Phillips (1-2, 5.87 ERA) in the series finale Thursday.