An old friend is in town, former Dust Devils radio man Mike Boyle. He did play-by-play for four seasons in Tri-City before taking over for Bob Robertson in Spokane. Always good to see Boyler back in the Mid-Columbia.
Ben Hughes (0-2, 4.09 ERA) will get the start for Tri-City. The big right-hander is much better than his record shows — he gave up five earned runs in his last outing, which ballooned his ERA over 4.
Hughes will pitch against Indians' right-hander Jose Valdspina, a 20-year-old Dominican who has struggled with control. So far, Northwest League hitters are batting .308 against him.
Dust Devils have a few trends emerging on offense: OF Kyle Von Tungeln has hit in all four games since making his debut last week, and SS Zach Osborne has back-to-back multi-hit games. But OF Francisco Sosa is on a real hot streak with a seven-game hitting streak and a six-game RBI streak. Sosa has also reached base in 12 consecutive games.
Tri-City gets the early jump, taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Miguel De Leon, the Dust Devils' No. 4 hitter, singled to lead off the frame, and Derek Jones walked to advance De Leon. Jarod Berggren then flied out to right field, moving De Leon to third. Patrick Hutcheson struck out, but catcher Michael Ramirez looped Valdespina's first pitch down the right field line, where right-fielder Preston Beck made a diving attempt but couldn't come up with it. That made it 1-0.
The next batter, Yafistel Roja, bounced a two-run single down the left-field line, driving in Jones and Ramirez before being thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Dust Devils lead 3-0 after two innings.
Press box is pretty crowded today. The boys from SWX Right Now are televising the game, and there are cameras all over the place — one in the press box, one in center field and one apiece along the baselines.
Craig West, who was the Dust Devils radio man for the first few seasons, is doing the play-by-play for SWX.
Interesting little circle of history we have going on up here with Boyle and West. It was Boyle who succeeded West as the play-by-play man for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. Then West headed down Highway 395 to become the Tri-City Americans radio man.
There's no other way to put it. Hughes was brilliant in his best start of the year. Six innings, two hits, two walks, seven strikeouts and no runs.
Now Spokane gets to face Eric Federico, who hasn't given up a run all year in six appearances. Good luck with that.
Dust Devils still lead 3-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Federico makes quick work of Spokane, retiring six batters on 19 pitches to set things up for Andrew Brown. That's 13 consecutive scoreless for Federico.
Tri-City breaks it open in the bottom of the eighth, batting around against reliever Ryan Harvey for six more runs.
A lot of Dust Devils players benefited from that explosion, mainly Sosa, who had a seven-game hitting streak on the line. He came up with two outs and lined an RBI double to the wall in left center to make it 8-0. That's seven consecutive games he's driven in a run.
I've seen plenty of impressive hitting streaks here over the years, but an RBI streak like that is much more difficult to put together.
Hutcheson was also riding a four-game hitting streak, which he extended during the eighth with an RBI single to left.
Dust Devils put a cap on it, as Brown sets the Indians down in the ninth. Tri-City almost lost the shutout, though, after Gabriel Roa hit a leadoff double and then nearly scored on a sharp two-out single to center by Royce Bolinger. But Spokane skipper (and third-base coach) Tim Hulett put up the stop sign at third, preventing Roa from coming around.
He might have made it, he might have not. I have the comfortable luxury of second-guessing Hulett, but why the heck not send him in that situation?
Anyway, it mattered not in the outcome.
Tri-City wins it 9-0.