But one big blow changed the tone, and the Sox followed through for an unlikely 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Hillsboro Hops on Sunday afternoon at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The Sox seemed completely out of it as they sleepwalked through the first four innings and fell behind 5-0. But D.J. Peterson's fifth-inning grand slam woke Everett up. Then the Sox scratched out the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, with Michael Faulkner coming home on Justin Seager's infield single to win it.
"It was a good come-from-behind victory," Faulkner said. "Just coming from behind shows our team chemistry. We all believe in each other, we've got a pretty good team right now, and I hope we can keep it going."
Phillips Castillo also homered for Everett (8-2), tying the score in the eighth and setting the stage for the ninth. The Sox received stellar relief pitching from Tyler Wright and Aaron Brooks, who combined for five scoreless innings to keep the Sox within reach. Brooks, a Mountlake Terrace native, tossed the final two frames to earn his first win as a professional.
Zach Esquerra homered to lead Hillsboro (3-7).
The game featured the professional debut of Everett starting pitcher Ryan Horstman. Horstman, the Seattle Mariners' fourth-round pick in this year's draft out of St. John's University, went two-plus innings before he reached his pitch limit. The left-hander showed some pop and movement on his pitches, striking out three. However, he didn't receive much defensive help and ended up allowing two runs on three hits.
There was also a brief flash point in the bottom of the sixth inning. Everett's Jamodrick McGruder knocked over Hillsboro catcher Yosbel Gutierrez on a play at the plate in which McGruder was thrown out. Gutierrez immediately got up and confronted McGruder, McGruder gave Gutierrez a shove, and both benches briefly emptied, though there were no punches thrown and no ejections.
Nothing was going Everett's way early. The Sox struggled on the mound and in the field, and they offered little resistance to Hillsboro starting pitcher Jose Martinez, who cruised through the first four innings.
But Peterson got the Sox back in it in the fifth with one swing of the bat. Martinez loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Then Peterson, first-pitch swinging, belted a ball into the netting above the left-field wall for a grand slam, and just like that it was 5-4. It was the second homer in two days for the Mariners' first-round draft pick.
"We were a little flat early on, but D.J. picked us up with the big home run," Everett manager Rob Mummau said.
"He's been big for us lately," Mummau added. "He's hit big home runs at the right time, and he's a good teammate, too."
Another blast tied it for Everett in the eighth as Castillo launched a towering solo shot to left, knotting it at 5-5.
Then the Sox manufactured the winning run in the ninth. With one out Faulkner lined a single to center. The speedy center fielder then stole second to put himself into scoring position.
"That last inning, tie ballgame, nobody wants to stay for extra innings," Faulkner said. "I just wanted to make good contact on the ball. (Hillsboro reliever Yoimer Camacho) jammed me a little bit, but it found a hole, and once I was on first I knew I needed to get in scoring position. I stole that base, and then the people behind me got it done."
A passed ball on ball four to Jack Reinheimer allowed Faulkner to advance to third and put runners at the corners. The Hops took no chances with Peterson, walking him intentionally to load the bases and bring Seager to the plate.
Seager quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. He fouled off one pitch, then hit a chopper that just bounded over Camacho's glove. Second baseman William Castillo fielded it, but he had no play as Faulkner scored the winning run.
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