The Tri-City Dust Devils were hungry for a win Wednesday night. But you've got to set the table before you can eat, and the Dust Devils did just that against the Boise Hawks.
The Dust Devils fed early off Boise pitching and got solid production from their Nos. 1 and 2 hitters Brian Humphries and Tim Smalling in a
5-3 victory at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.
The pair of Colorado Rockies draft picks combined to go 5-for-8 with three runs scored as Tri-City (7-6) moved to within a game of the first-place Hawks (8-5). The win also snapped Boise's five-game winning streak.
The Dust Devils took advantage of a rocky start by Hawks' starter Jin-Young Kim, who allowed singles to Humphries and Smalling to lead off the game and then walked Tyler Massey, Jordan Ribera and Ryan Casteel to force in two runs.
"It was like a fight at the bat rack," said Smalling, a 15th-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech who went 3-for-5 to improve his average to .282. Over his last five games, Smalling is hitting .391, including four multi-hit games.
"I'm starting to get comfortable. It's been a while since I've seen live pitching," Smalling said. "I'm just getting my timing back."
Smalling scored Tri-City's second run and drove in Humphries with a two-out RBI double in the third to make it 3-0 Dust Devils.
But Humphries, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, also made things happen on defense. When Tri-City starting pitcher Ricardo Ferrer allowed three hits in the first inning, it was Humphries who bailed him out. The 6-foot-3 left-hander played Reggie Golden's two-out single on one hop and came up with a great throw from center field to nail Travis Garcia at the plate.
"That was a big boost for me. I wish I could be hitting a little better, but this should get me going," Humphries said. "This was a big win, especially against Boise."
Every time the Hawks tried to answer, the Dust Devils got another insurance run. When Boise scored in the top of the third, David Hernandez singled in Blake McDade in the bottom of the fourth. When the Hawks picked up a run in the sixth, Jeff Squier knocked in Casteel with a single to left to make it 5-2.
"It would have been nice to get more runs in the first. (Kim) gave us a chance to score about four or five runs," Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio said. "But in this ballpark, you don't have to score many runs to win. We played well on defense. This was our second game in a row with no errors."
Ferrer threw 68 pitches through four innings, allowing eight hits and a run. He worked through some potential trouble with runners in scoring position, including a strikeout of Willson Contreras with the bases loaded to end the third inning.
Rhett Ballard (2-0) got the win with two hitless innings. Isaiah Froneberger settled down after a leadoff single in the ninth to earn his third save.
Notes: Tri-City right-hander Tyler Gagnon (0-0, 1.86 ERA) will get the start tonight against Boise lefty Willengton Cruz (0-0, 3.86 ERA). ... Three hitting streaks ended Wednesday night. Casteel was working on a nine-game streak but went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. For Boise, Pin-Chieh Chen (10 games) and Brad Zapenas (six games) each had their hitting streaks snapped. ... Dust Devils alumni update: Colorado Springs Sky Sox closer Jim Miller (2004) will represent the Rockies in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) all-star game July 13 in Salt Lake City. He was a California League All-Star in 2005 and a Northwest League All-Star with Tri-City in 2004. At High-A Modesto, OF Kent Matthes (2009) went 2-for-2 with a double, a homer and four RBIs in the Nuts' 8-4 road win over the San Jose Giants. RHP Parker Frazier (2008, 2010) picked up the win to improve to 5-7. At Low-A Asheville, the Tourists lost 9-1 to the Greenville Drive, but Josh Hungerman (2009, 2010) and Stephen Head (2011) combined for three shutout innings of relief.