Tri-City Dust Devils

Defense huge in Dust Devils' 2-1 win over Indians

The Northwest League All-Star team is due out this week, and the playoff-bound Tri-City Dust Devils should earn a few spots on the team.

One thing the NWL doesn’t have is a defensive award. If it did, the Dust Devils certainly would grab another healthy handful of honors.

“I think we’d have a few Gold Glovers on this team,” said Tri-City starter Chris Jensen, who worked 42⁄3 innings, allowing just one run on two hits in a 2-1 win over the Spokane Indians on Tuesday night at Gesa Stadium.

Jensen, the Colorado Rockies’ sixth-round pick out of the University of San Diego, also gave full credit to his defense, which bailed him out in the third and fourth innings.

In the third, Vancouver’s Rougned Odor reached second on a two-out wild pitch by Jensen, putting him in scoring position. The next batter, Edwin Garcia, hit a hard grounder to Dust Devils third baseman Jayson Langfels, who dangerously one-hopped his throw to first base. But Jordan Ribera dug the ball out of the dirt for the final out of the inning.

Langfels also made the defensive play of the game with Indians runners on first and second with one out in the fourth. Jorge Alfaro hit a chopper down the line at third, which Langfels gloved on the backhand as his momentum carried him past the bag.

But he quickly reversed ground, rushing back to step on third to get the force and then making the bullet throw to Ribera at first for the double play.

“It just energizes you,” Jensen said. “Langfels gets to that ball and steps on the bag, and Ribera makes the scoop. (Shortstop Taylor) Featherston made at least three great plays, too.”

Dust Devils reliever Craig Bennigson came on to spell Jensen with a runner on second and two outs in the fifth. But Bennigson, a NWL All-Star with Tri-City in 2009, got Edwin Garcia to fly out to end the inning and went on to retire the next nine in a row.

That set the stage for Dust Devils save leader Ken Roberts in the ninth inning. Facing Spokane’s 3-4-5 hitters, Roberts set down Brett Nicholas and Guillermo Pimentel before allowing an infield single to Yefry Castillo. But then Roberts struck out Alfaro to end the game.

The Dust Devils (39-27 overall, 17-11 second half) held a four-game lead over Yakima (26-40, 13-15) in the East Division and kept pace with Eugene (39-27, 15-13) for the best record in the NWL. If the Dust Devils win the second half, they will play the team with the best overall record this season, which at this point would be Spokane (32-34).

Tri-City, the first-half East Division champion, will open the NWL divisional playoffs Sept. 5 on the road and then play Games 2 and 3 at Gesa Stadium on Sept 6-7.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Tri-City, which has 10 games remaining in the regular season.

The offense, which scored one run in the previous two losses to the Indians on Sunday and Monday, showed some signs of life with eight hits — all singles — including the go-ahead RBI single from Jared Simon with two outs in the seventh. Brian Humphries, Tyler Massey and Featherston each had two hits for the Dust Devils. Massey’s RBI single with one out in the third brought home Langfels with the game’s first run and also extended his hit streak to 12 games.

Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio still would like to see some more production, especially with runners on base.

“It was a close game — a good one for the pitchers, but not a good one for the offense,” Ocasio said after his team left 10 men on base and was 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Notes: Today’s pitching probables — Tri-City RHP Christian Bergman (7-4, 2.55 ERA) against Vancouver LHP Justin Nicolino (5-1, 1.03) at Nat Bailey Stadium. ... LHP Tyler Anderson, the Colorado Rockies’ first-round draft choice out of the University of Oregon, will throw his first bullpen session for the Dust Devils today. ... Ribera remained hitless in 10 games since returning Aug. 13 from a groin injury. He is 0-for-33 since he came back, and his average has dropped from .320 to .243.

w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com; Read his Walk in the Park blog at sportstricities.com.

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