As Matt Feinstein crossed home plate seconds after he detonated a grand slam over the right-field wall, he hardly showed emotion. He didn’t point to anyone in the crowd, didn’t even flash a grin as he headed into the dugout with his Chukars, who had just taken a five-run lead over the Vibes.
It all felt extraordinarily routine, as did Idaho Falls’ 8-4 win over Rocky Mountain Thursday night. The Chukars have made a habit of pounding the Vibes this season, which is why this installment hardly felt different, even the part where starting pitcher Austin Dubsky struck out seven over seven innings of four-run baseball.
“I was definitely happy on the inside,” Feinstein said. “Just trying to keep my head down and grind. I would say I haven’t been tearing the cover off the ball lately, so I’m just trying to work on getting that back and see some more two-, three-, four-hit games coming in.”
Still, it’s good news for Idaho Falls, which has now won four straight. The Chukars (38-15) followed Feinstein’s blast with homers from Thomas DeBonville and Webb Little, whose solo shot in the eighth secured the final margin.
It amounted to something resembling a mirror image of Idaho Falls’ 9-4 win Wednesday night: Same opponent, same result, same location, almost the same score. In the thick of the season, these wins can feel monotonous, but they matter to a Chukars team that failed to secure a playoff berth in the first half.
That never figured to pose much of an issue in the second half, but now the Chukars are trying to make sure of things. With Thursday’s win, they are now tied with Billings for the second-half lead in the Northern Division. Both are 4-1.
Idaho Falls is off to such a sterling start, in large part, because of its starting pitching. On Thursday, Dubsky hurled seven innings, yielding four runs on seven hits, issuing zero walks and fanning seven. His was an effective outing, particularly because after he served up a three-run homer in the sixth — which trimmed Idaho Falls’ lead to two — he rebounded with a 1-2-3 seventh.
That set the stage for the Chukars to pad the lead with DeBonville and Little’s homers.
“That was really good,” Chukars manager Billy Gardner Jr. said. “The only real mistake he made was that changeup that sparked them.”
Dubsky had the leash to keep going because his offense hammered out another early lead. On Wednesday, the Chukars unleashed a six-run first inning. On Thursday, they unloaded five in the second. That’s encouraging for the hosts for obvious reasons — namely, this Ferrari offense keeps humming — but also for the way it alleviates teammates.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the starting pitcher,” said Gardner, whose team got a clean two innings of relief from Keagan McGinnis to finish off the win. “He’s got some room to work with. But any time, in this ballpark, with the winds blowing out, you’ve got to stay after it.”
That is what Idaho Falls will look to do on Friday night, the third game of this six-game set that will conclude on Monday.
“The biggest challenge at this point in the season is just making sure your body’s right,” Feinstein said. “Handling all those aches and pains you get from playing every day. But these six-game series, and especially playing the same team — I think this is game 20, maybe? You see a lot of the same arms and you just have to understand how they’re trying to attack you at the plate, and adjust accordingly.”