Ryan Rua’s three-run home run capped a six run fifth inning for the Spokane Indians (15-19, 7-8 away) as they beat the Eugene Emeralds (20-15, 9-6 at home) 6-1 behind five innings of no-hit pitching by C.J. Edwards (W, 2-3) Monday night at PK Park.
Edwards, who walked two and struck out seven, has enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign after being drafted by the Rangers in the 48th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, with an earned run average of just 2.11 in the Northwest League, along with twenty scoreless innings in the Arizona League.
“(Edwards) tonight was the best we’ve seen all year. He was electric. His fastball might have shown 92, but it played at 95, 96,” said Emeralds manager Pat Murphy.
Emeralds’ starting pitcher Kyle Ottoson (L, 0-2) matched Edwards early in Monday’s game, allowing just one base runner in the first three innings.
Indians shortstop Gabe Roa opened the fourth inning by drawing a walk, though he was followed by a Jake Skole strike out and Ryan Rua fly out. Third baseman Joey Gallo, the Texas Rangers’ 2012 1st Round Pick, hit a pop fly down the third base line. Emeralds’ third baseman Felix Cabrera ranged to the edge of the visitors’ dugout to corral the ball and end the inning.
The smooth sailing came to a halt for Ottoson in the fifth inning. After Indians’ right fielder Preston Beck grounded out to Emeralds’ second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum, catcher Joe Maloney reached on an error by Cabrera, and first baseman Smerling Lantigua singled to center field. Second baseman Nick Vickerson then hit a line drive to center field, which Emeralds’ center fielder Alberth Martinez dove for and appeared to catch. However, when Martinez hit the ground, the ball came loose, loading the bases for center fielder Chris Garia.
The just-out-of-reach plays continued for the Emeralds, as shortstop Stephen Carmon was unable to cleanly field Garia’s ground ball, allowing Beck to score. Roa followed with a line drive that ricocheted off of a diving Cabrera’s glove, scoring Maloney and Lantigua and bringing the score to 3-0, Indians.
Ottoson appeared prime to weather the storm after striking out Skole, but Rua broke the game open with a towering drive to left center field, extending the lead to 6-0 and ending Ottoson’s outing.
Right-handed relief pitcher Matthew Shepherd entered for the Emeralds, and promptly struck out Gallo to stop the bleeding. Meanwhile, Edwards continued to cruise, prompting Emeralds’ designated hitter Edwin Moreno and catcher Dane Phillips to fly out, and Martinez to strike out swinging.
In the sixth inning, right-hander Shawn Blackwell relieved Edwards. With two outs, Emeralds’ left fielder Jeremy Baltz slammed a line drive over the left field wall, for the Emeralds first hit and first run, bringing the score to 6-1.
Both bullpens combined for a scoreless seventh, eighth, and ninth inning. Emeralds’ relievers Matthew Chabot and Joe Church combined to strike out seven and allow two walks and one hit over four innings.
“The bullpen’s been the strong point of our team all year,” noted Murphy.
The loss pushed the Emeralds to a half-game back of the Vancouver Canadians in the West division second half standings. The Emeralds must finish at least a game ahead of the Canadians to win the second half title, as the Canadians own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If the Emeralds capture the title, they will host the Everett AquaSox next Monday at PK Park, before traveling to Everett for the final one or two games of the West divisional championship.
The Canadians open their final five-game series at the Yakima Bears on Tuesday night. The Emeralds must hope for multiple Bears victories along with success of their own in the remainder of their five-game series against the Indians.
“These guys haven’t quit for very long. There’s some guys banged up, there’s some guys tired, that’s part of it,” said Murphy. “We feel lucky to be in the position we’re in, and we’ll come out tomorrow and we’ll play hard again.”
The Emeralds will continue their series with the Indians on Tuesday night, at 7:05 PM.