The Tri-City Dust Devils have had some big moments on offense this season, but lately it’s been about doing the little things.
The Dust Devils missed another opportunity to win a close game during a 2-1 loss to Spokane on Thursday in front of 2,189 fans at Gesa Stadium.
It was the third loss in four games for Tri-City, which begins a six-game road trip today in Boise. In each of those three losses, the Dust Devils put the tying run on base to lead off the final inning but couldn’t bring the run across.
“We were 8-8 in one-run games before today. Turn half of those (losses) around, it can change your season,” Tri-City catcher Tom Murphy said after going 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to seven games.
But he, too, was frustrated with the lack of runs.
“Everybody just keeps pressing,” he said. “The pitchers are doing a great job. This has always been a hard park to score.”
With Spokane leading 2-1, Patrick Hutcheson singled to left to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and Yafistel Roha hit a one-out infield single to put Hutchison on second. Jarod Berggren then hit a hard ground ball deep in the hole to shortstop Ryan Roa, who threw to third to force Hutcheson.
With the tying run on second, Indians closer Josh McElwee then got Zach Osborne to fly out to right field to end the game.
“We had another chance to win but couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio said.
Dust Devils starter Peter Tago limited the Indians (14-27, 2-1 second half) to two runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings. He got behind some hitters but didn’t walk anybody. He also did a good job inducing ground ball outs for his defense.
“Regardless of the score, I still have to get hitters out. It’s my job to keep my team in it,” Tago said after lowering his ERA from 5.89 to 5.40.
He didn’t give a second thought to a low strikeout total — he fanned two — or worry about a slight decrease in velocity.
“There’s a lot of natural run to my fastball, so I’m not really a strikeout pitcher,” Tago said. “
Spokane centerfielder Royce Bolinger, a sixth-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers out of Gonzaga, continued three impressive streaks. With his first-inning RBI single, the 6-foot-2 right-hander hit in his 11th game in a row, reached base for the 19th consecutive time and drove in a run in the ninth straight game.
“I started off pretty bad, but then got used to hitting with wood,” said Bolinger, now tied for second on the team with 13 RBIs. “I’m just working hard and trying to keep the same approach.”
The Dust Devils tied it in the bottom of the first, as Rosell Herrera hit a one-out double to the gap in left center field and scored on a single to right by Miguel De Leon.
Spokane re-took the lead when Gabriel Rua hit a one-out double in the top of the sixth and scored on a single to left by Joe Maloney.
Tago (2-5) took the loss, while Eric Brooks (2-1) got the win for the Indians with four scoreless innings. McElwee collected his fifth save despite giving up the two hits in the ninth.
NOTES: Tri-City RHP Shane Broyles (3-0, 1.45 ERA) will get the start against Boise today in the first of three games at Memorial Stadium. ... Dust Devils SS Herrera left the game after a bad-hop ground ball hit him just below the left eye with two outs in the fifth inning. He was replaced by Osborne. Teammates reported that Herrera should be fine but will likely be sporting a black eye today. ... The Dust Devils booster club named its Players of the Month for June 15-July 18. OF Francisco Sosa, who hit .370 (10-for-27) with 11 RBIs and five RBIs in eight games in early July, earned the Offensive award, while RHP Shane Broyles, who won three consecutive starts from July 4-15, took home the Pitcher award. ... Ti-City 3B Patrick Hutcheson made a nice diving stop of a hard ninth-inning ground ball from Ryan Roa, and then threw to Yafistel Roja at second to start a double play.