Through the first nine games of the season, the Tri-City Dust Devils haven’t been wanting for two things — wins and drama.
They came back from a 4-0 deficit in the middle of the seventh Thursday night to pull out a walk-off, 5-4 win over the visiting Spokane Indians, then beat the Everett AquaSox in similar fashion the following evening for their seventh straight victory to start the season a Northwest League-best 8-1.
While the late-inning heroics have been a treat for the players and fans, they might have taken a few years off the squad’s skipper.
“Maybe a little bit too much fun the last two days,” second-year Dust Devils manager Ben Fritz said. “You take them however you can get them, but yeah, we’ve been waiting until the late innings, and you’d like to see these guys get on the gas pedal a little earlier.”
Because of the San Diego Padres’ huge dive into the international market this off-season — they spent more than $80 million dollars in signing bonuses and luxury taxes — the Dust Devils are one of the youngest teams in the Northwest League, and that may be to their benefit.
“It shows what kind of team we have (to win those games),” said Tri-City catcher Jalen Washington, who was drafted in the 29th round out of Ohio State in the MLB Draft and joined Tri-City on Thursday. “A lot of diversity on the team, and the guys just like to have fun, they like to win. Every one is playing together. Hopefully that continues throughout the season, because that’s the sign of a good team.”
As fun as the comeback victories were, neither walk-off was particularly pretty.
On Thursday, Washington led off the ninth by drawing a walk, then got bunted over to second by Aldemar Burgos. With two outs, Justin Lopez hit a grounder straight to Indians first baseman Curtis Terry, who started running to the bag before he secured the ball, which allowed Washington to come around and score the winning run.
The Dust Devils at least posted an earned run in the ninth inning of Friday’s game, with Luis Almanzar singling with one out, then stealing second to get himself in scoring position for Tre Carter’s two-out, broken-bat bloop single to right that ended it.
“Almanzar stealing second base two pitches before (Carter’s hit) to get himself into scoring position, if he’s on first he doesn’t score on that hit,” Fritz said. “And Tre found a spot. You swing the bat, good things happen. Did he hit it as hard as he wanted to? No, but at the end of the day, it won the ballgame.”
Chandler Seagle (Round 30, Appalachian State) made his professional debut behind the plate Friday for Tri-City and was squarely in the middle of the comeback effort.
He led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to right, then came around to score Tri-City’s first run of the game on a base hit by Lopez. With two outs in the eighth, Seagle smoked a 1-2 pitch down the left-field line for a single to plate Washington from second and tie the score at 4-4.
“It was awesome,” Seagle said. “Got that knock down the first-base line, got to first and turned around, and I was pumped up and excited to get that run across because I knew that was a big run going into the ninth inning, and it allowed us to finish the game off there.”