EVERETT — Three hits.
The Everett AquaSox managed just three hits in their game against the Tri-City Dust Devils on Friday night.
And yet, the Sox won in a canter.
OK, maybe it was more of a leisurely stroll.
Everett’s batters took advantage of a dreadful display of control from the Dust Devils pitching staff, and the Sox meandered to a 6-1 victory at Everett Memorial Stadium, Everett’s fifth straight.
Everett’s hitters drew an astonishing 14 walks. And it wasn’t so much a case of the Sox displaying a keen batting eye. Many of those errant pitches had Everett’s hitters diving for cover just to protect themselves.
The Sox never even needed to put the ball in play to score most of their runs. The first three came home on wild pitches and the fourth came via a bases-loaded walk. The other two came on Travis Howell’s two-run homer in the eighth inning.
The only Everett batter in the starting lineup who didn’t draw a walk was Jharmidy DeJesus, and he would have had he been able to get out of the way of a two-strike pitch a little quicker before being plunked. That walk parade even included Luis Nunez, who came into the game having walked just twice in 147 at bats.
Nate Tenbrink and Tyson Gillies each received four free passes — though one of Tenbrink’s came when he was hit by a pitch.
“We had good approaches,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said of his batters. “When we went up we had real good plans because we tried to take advantage of their control problems. We worked the count and when you have a good plan at the plate something’s going to happen.”
In actuality the Sox (22-29) had a poor offensive game until the eighth came around. Anthony Phillips led off the game with a sharp single, and Everett didn’t sniff another hit until Howell’s two-out, two-run blast in the eighth, his first as a professional. Even with all the walks the Sox still struck out 14 times.
In contrast, the Dust Devils (23-28) hit the ball hard on several occasions. But with the exception of Scott Robinson’s home run leading off the game, each of those hard line drives went straight to an Everett outfielder.
Everett’s pitchers combined on a three-hitter of their own. It began with starter Kenn Kasparek, who after a rocky start settled into a grove. The towering 6-foot-10 right-hander went four innings, giving up one run on three hits and one walk, striking out four.
“We were thinking about maybe taking him out of the game because he threw too many pitches in one inning,” Moreno said after Kasparek needed 37 pitches to get out of the first inning. “But he made the adjustment right away. He was aggressive, his angle was downhill which as a big guy is something he has to do with consistency, and he was able to throw his breaking pitch for a strike. He gave us the opportunity to win the game.”
Marquis Pettis, Doug Salinas and Javier Martinez combined on five scoreless innings of relief to close the game out.
In contrast it was a control nightmare for the Dust Devils, no more so than for starter Bradley McAtee, who had a control meltdown worthy of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from the movie Major League. McAtee threw 17 straight balls to begin the second inning, walked all five batters he faced and tossed in three run-scoring wild pitches for good measure. As a result the Sox scored three runs without once removing the bat from their shoulders, taking a 3-1 lead.
It wasn’t the first time this season McAtee’s battled his control. The right-hander came into the game having issued 29 walks in 32 innings.
“I haven’t really seen that before,” Moreno said of McAtee’s 17 straight balls. “It was bad for them, but it was good that we were able to take advantage and we’ll take it.”
McAtee’s replacement, J.R. Murphy, had his own control issues in the third, issuing three free passes, including a bases-loaded walk to Tyson Gillies that made it 4-1.