Spokane, Wash. — The evening got off to a promising start for the Tri-City Dust Devils as Grant Little and Owen Miller led off the game with back-to-back singles, advanced on a wild pitch and then Little scored on a infield grounder. But the offense stagnated from there, the host Spokane Indians cobbled together a few runs, and the Dust Devils dropped their fourth straight.
While the offense couldn’t help him, Tri-City starter Cole Bellinger turned in the best start of his young career. A day three pick from last year who won’t turn 19 until after this season is complete, Bellinger worked through six innings for the first time, posted a personal best nine strikeouts, and allowed only three batters to reach base safely.
The Phoenix area native, who still hasn’t filled out his six-foot-two frame at all, never got above 90 MPH on his fastball all night, but worked it and his big-breaking curve and change-up to all quadrants effectively. Showing a feel well beyond his age, he was ahead in the count all night, getting first-pitch strikes against 16 of the 22 batters he faced. Once he was ahead, he didn’t give in to hitters, not allowing a two-strike hit all night.
The only runner to reach through the first three innings was on a two-base fielding error by Kelvin Alarcon to open the third inning. He came around to score an unearned run after a wild pitch.
In the fourth, Bellinger walked third batter Diosbel Arias on four pitches with one out, but came back to get a strikeout and foul pop to catcher Blake Hunt. He finally allowed his first hit with one out in the fifth when Christian Inoa hit a grounder that Miller fielded behind second, but had to double-pump on the throw, allowing Inoa to beat it out. Bellinger once again rallied himself and got a pair of strikeouts on six total pitches to escape any damage.
In the sixth, Bellinger allowed a leadoff single on a flare to center, then threw away a pickoff attempt to move the runner up to second. That run – which is currently on the books incorrectly as an earned run, but should be corrected – came around on a bunt and sacrifice fly before Bellinger froze his final batter of the game with a slow curve.
While Bellinger cruised, Indians righty Tai Tiedemann matched him. After the two hits to open the game, the big righty from Long Beach allowed only one more hit over 6.2 frames, another single by Miller. The only other time he worked into trouble was in the sixth, when he hit Little and Miller to open the frame. But after a strikeout of Aldemar Burgos, he induced a weak contact double play – something he also did following an error and another hit batter earlier in the game.
While Tre Carter went 0-for-4 on the night, the left-handed hitter did a nice job of keeping his hands inside the ball in each of his first three at-bats, pulling the ball with hard contact in each trip. After showing a good approach all night, he chased wildly on a two-strike slider to end the game. It was the only time he really expanded the zone in the game.
In addition to his two singles, Miller also doubled into the short right field corner in the seventh. He hit the ball just to the wall at the 298 foot mark and the Indians right fielder couldn’t get to it. Miller has hit in nine straight and is pacing the club’s qualifying hitters with a .338/.384/.475 line.
Fourth-rounder Dylan Coleman stayed on the every-four-days schedule he’s had since signing out of Missouri State, where he threw 102 innings this spring. The big righty, who worked 92-94 with his fastball, hasn’t thrown more than 31 pitches in his five outings for Tri-City, and will likely be on a light workload through his first summer as a professional. While he gave up a leadoff single in his one inning of work, he quickly got a double play to erase the runner. He yielded one more single before getting a grounder to end the frame.