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Tri-City losing hope for title defense

Heard sad news tonight that Skip Caray, longtime voice of the Atlanta Braves on TBS, died at 68.

Thanks to the Braves’ national television exposure, Carey was one of the few announcers whom the average fan could identify at first listen.

But Tri-City play-by-play man Mike Boyle offered another somber announcement on KALE 960 AM upon conclusion of the Dust Devils’ 10-4 loss to Spokane tonight.

“It’s over,” he said, referring to Tri-City’s already diminished hopes of a second-straight Northwest League East Division title.

I have to say, it’s difficult to disagree with him.

The Dust Devils started strong with a 4-0 lead and looked up to the task of hanging with what has been, without question, the league’s strongest team.

But Tri-City pitchers just couldn’t find the strike zone, walking 10 and hitting two more. Credit the defense with three double plays in the first four innings, but if you give the Indians an inch on offense, they’ll end up taking a mile.

“A lot of times you’re thinking about the tempo,” said Dust Devils infielder Patrick Rose, who committed his 15th error of the season. “It’s tough to stay strong mentally out there. “(Spokane) kept putting the ball in play, getting guys on base and putting pressure on us. I myself could’ve concentrated a little better.”

While the Dust Devils showed weakness — pitchers putting runners on base, stranding runners on offense — Spokane flat didn’t make any mistakes.

They found ways to drive in runners, even if they did it with help from Tri-City. Their pitching is outstanding — the Indians lead the NWL with a team ERA of 3.07, nearly half-a-point better than second place Tri-City (3.64).

Interesting note, though: I’ve pointed out in several stories that the Dust Devils have struggled on defense, committing 67 errors through 46 games. Tonight, I found out that Spokane has 80 errors during the same time frame.

So how come that doesn’t reflect in the Indians’ record? I guess it’s all about the timing. Spokane pitchers have allowed a league-low 348 hits, so they minimize the damage of those errors.

Either way, the Indians are a mighty good club, and it’s too bad they can’t square off with Boise — the league’s second best team — for the NWL championship.

But since both teams are in the East, they’ll have to duke it out in the regular season for the division title before taking on the West Division champ.

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