Kyle Von Tungeln had been struggling of late for the Tri-City Dust Devils.
The centerfielder was in a 2-for-23 slump dating to Aug. 1, but you wouldn’t have known it seeing him at the plate Thursday.
Von Tungeln hit a double and an RBI triple to lead the Dust Devils offense, but it wasn’t enough as Tri-City lost its fourth consecutive game falling 5-2 to Spokane at Gesa Stadium.
“I had early hitting with the coaches,” Von Tungeln said of his improvement. “I’ve been struggling lately and I shortened up my swing and took away my leg kick. I tried to stay short and simple to the ball.”
Von Tungeln added the leg kick this year on the advice of his coaches, but ditched it Thursday and it worked.
He laced a 1-1 pitch off the right-field wall for a two-out double in the third. After popping out to third in the fifth, he hammered another 1-1 pitch up the right-center field alley, cruising into third with a standup triple.
“I wasn’t comfortable with (the leg kick),” he said. “I went back to what got me here in the first place.”
While Von Tungeln was enjoying a resurgence at the plate, the Dust Devils as a whole were not.
Tri-City lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell four games behind Spokane in the Northwest League North standings with 17 games to play.
The Dust Devils had their chances Thursday, trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh after Von Tungeln’s triple and an RBI single by Chris O’Dowd. Spokane then walked Michael Tauchman and both runners moved up on stolen bases, putting the tying runs in scoring position for red-hot Michael Benjamin.
Benjamin came into the game with a league-leading 13 RBIs in August, but he bounced out harmlessly to second base to end the threat.
“It seems like we just have that one inning, where we are putting up zeroes and then give up some runs,” Von Tungeln said of the pitching. “We are hitting the ball hard, just right at people. We are a bit snake bit. We have to stay positive and hopefully things will turn around.”
Tri-City starter Johendi Jiminian was cruising, reaching the seventh on just 62 pitches. With two outs and a runner on first, though, the wheels fell off for the Dust Devils.
After a wild pitch moved Cam Schiller to second, Barrett Serrato singled to center and Von Tungeln came up throwing. His throw appeared to have a chance at getting Schiller at the plate, but first baseman Sean Dwyer cut the throw off.
Marc Magliaro came on in relief and gave up three consecutive singles to make it 3-0, and a wild pitch and a throwing error by catcher O’Dowd led to the fourth run.
Spokane added a run in the top of the eighth, as Jordan Akins reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a walk, to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Schiller.
Tri-City put its leadoff runner on in the ninth, but Justin Sprenger responded by striking out the side.
Jiminian (2-3), who has been Tri-City’s best starter this season, took the loss. He gave up two runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Magliaro recorded just two outs and gave up two runs on four hits with two walks.
Brett Anderson (1-0) earned the win in relief of Eric Brooks, allowing one hit with a strikeout in one inning. Sprenger pitched 2 1-3 shutout innings to earn his third save.
NOTES: The Boise Hawks come to town today for a five-game series. Ryan Warner (3-2, 2.81 ERA) is scheduled to start for Tri-City, while Jose Rosario (0-7, 7.38) is slated for Boise. ... Joe Jackson saw nine pitches spread out over two innings before Jiminian finally got the Spokane designated hitter to pop out to third. Jackson was even in the count at 2-2 in the top of the sixth when Marcus Greene was thrown out trying to take third on a pitch in the dirt. Jackson then led off the top of the 7th, fouling off two pitches before popping out to shallow left. The situation was repeated in the eighth when Greene was batting with two outs and a runner was thrown out at second. Greene saw 13 pitches in his two at bats.