Casey McElroy hit a pair of home runs for the Eugene Emeralds. Four of the Spokane Indians’ (32-36) seven errors came during a four-run, third inning for the Ems. And the Indians committed two errors on the same play twice.
On a night that featured anything and everything bizarre, the Emeralds 8-4 win moved them one game behind the Everett Aquasox in the Northwest League’s Western Division.
With playoffs less than two weeks away, the Ems (41-27) are playing the kind of baseball they hope to carry into the postseason. Their third win in a row also makes it their seventh win in nine games.
“(Playoffs is) what we talk about every day,” McElroy said. “Everybody’s getting amped up, really excited. We’re starting to play playoff baseball right now. And I think everyone’s excitement level is just at a different level, and I think we’re ready.
McElroy’s impressive night happened to come on his father’s birthday—and with his father, Gerry, in attendance. McElroy went 2-for-3 with three RBI and his first and second home runs as an Emerald.
“I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut here and there,” he said. “I didn’t have that great of a night last night and I just remembered to be aggressive. First pitch I saw tonight was a good fastball, and I just remembered to be aggressive and put a good swing on it.”
While they worked with a large lead for most of the night, the Emeralds bullpen continues to be stellar.
Five relievers combined to throw seven innings and allowed just one hit and no runs during the final five innings.
“Our relief pitching was outstanding and its been the strength of our team most of the year,” manager Pat Murphy said. “Our offense is starting to get a little more confidence. Justin (Miller) is swinging it great. (Matt) Colantonio is having great at-bats. And now to have McElroy come up big, that’s pretty neat.”
On the hill for the Ems was Juan Herrera who appeared to be nagged by an injury in the early going.
In the first inning, Herrera pitched erratically, starting each of the first four batters he faced with 2-0 counts. After retiring the first two hitters, Herrera walked the next three. It warranted a visit from Murphy and the Ems trainer, Zach Jones.
After a brief conversation, Herrera remained in the game, forced to work out of a bases loaded, two-out jam. Herrera was able to clean up his own mess as he forced Guillermo Pimentel to fly out to the second baseman, Casey McElroy. It was still a short night for Herrera, as he lasted just two innings.
The Ems first runs of the came were delivered by a McElroy’s two-run home run. The Indians scored a run in the second and third innings, tying the game 2-2.
The bottom of the third inning might be one that Indians starting pitcher Santo Perez will see in his nightmares.
With one out, Perez surrendered his second home run of the game—again it was to McElroy. Duanel Jones followed with a double. A fielding error by Perez allowed the next batter, Travis Whitmore, to reach first and moved Jones to third. After striking out Justin Miller for the second out of the inning, Perez balked home Jones from third and moved Whitmore to second. The Ems led 4-2.
Perez walked Colantonio putting runners at first and second for Jose Dore, who delivered his second hit of the night, an RBI double. But the Indians relay throw from right field sailed over the cutoff man and Colantonio broke for home. Perez fielded the loose ball but committed his second error of the inning—and the Indians second error on the play—by throwing wide of the catcher and allowing Colantonio to score.
Perez was pulled after the next batter where the Indians committed their fourth error of the inning. The Ems led 6-2 after the third inning.
A two-run double from Indians designated hitter Trevor Adams in the fourth inning cut the Ems lead to two. The Ems, however, continued their assault of the Spokane pitching in the fifth inning.
Miller led off the inning with a double, which extended his hitting streak to 18 games. Colantonio followed with his own double driving in Miller. Alberth Martinez put the Ems up 8-4 with a single to drive in Colantonio.
Dore led the Ems in hits with a 3-for-4 game, but he also had a shaky night on the base paths. He was caught stealing after getting a terrible jump and was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a triple.
“Our base running has been poor the last two days—over aggressive or tentative, one of the other,” Murphy said. “But I’m proud of our guys. This time of year, our guys haven’t played this many games in a row, so to be in the position that we’re in, I’m pleased with the guys’ effort.”