Spokane Indians starter Mike Ruff came into Tuesday’s game against Everett 4-0 with an earned-run average of 0.86 in five home starts this season.
He didn’t find the same success, and the bullpen couldn’t pick him up.
James Parker clubbed a three-run home run in the fifth inning to open things up and despite a late comeback the AquaSox beat the Indians 7-6 to open a six-game Northwest League series at Avista Stadium.
After falling behind big in the middle innings, the Indians (32-30) scored twice in the seventh and again in the eighth to make it a one-run game.
“That was good to see,” Indians manager Scott Little said. “We had a missed opportunity there in the second. We had a few bad pitches there in the middle, but they stayed in there and battled. Had a shot there in the end.”
Ruff gave up a run in the first and three in the second. He put the first two batters on in the fifth and was lifted. Both runners came around to score.
All told, Ruff (5-5) allowed six runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts.
“Early in the game, he tried to do way too much,” pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. “He tried to be way too tricky, maybe even over game plan a little bit, and ended up getting away from his strengths. Got back to his strengths in the third and fourth inning.”
The AquaSox (31-32) went right to work on Ruff. Victor Labrada tripled on the fourth pitch of the game and scored two batters later on a line-drive double by Dariel Gomez.
The Indians answered in the bottom half. Braiden Ward was hit by a pitch leading off, stole second and third and scored on a single by Eddy Diaz.
Diaz (2 for 5) stole second and third then scored on a single by Drew Romo.
Everett got those runs back and then some in the second. Trent Tingelstad led off with a double, Ruff hit ninth-place hitter Cole Barr and both scored on Labrada’s second triple in as many innings. Labrada then hustled home on a wild pitch to make it 4-2.
With two down in the fifth, Ruff issued back-to-back walks and Little came out with the hook.
“He might have ran out of gas,” Kibler said. “Those first two innings were tough. He was up over 90 pitches and when you start to lose it up, so could have very well ran out of gas.”
Reliever Boby Johnson was greeted rudely by James Parker, who clobbered a 0-2 pitch to left for a three-run shot and 7-2 lead.
“It was the right pitch,” Kibler said of the hanging slider. “All you gotta do is bounce it. That’s a completely different night if he bounces the slider there.”
The offense didn’t quit.
The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh. Colin Simpson grounded to first and Diaz was forced at second, but the relay throw by Noelvi Marte got past the first baseman and two runs scored on the play.
In the eighth, Julio Carreras doubled, then Bladimir Restituyo pulled one down the line that cleared the fence for his fourth homer of the season to make it a one-run game.
Simpson hit a one-out single in the ninth and Zac Veen was inserted as a pinch-runner, but Romo grounded into a game-ending double-play.
• Off and running: The Indians stole four bases in the first inning which helped to generate a pair of runs. Diaz had two in the frame and has 23 on the season, drawing him within one of the league lead of teammate Zac Veen. The Indians lead the circuit with 95.
“You got two guys that can really run and they steal bases,” Little said. “They both got on and we have the green line, so they ran.”