EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox came one out away from a minor-league rarity of back-to-back shutouts.
Instead the Sox had to settle for back-to-back quality wins.
Everett received its second consecutive outstanding effort from its pitching staff Sunday afternoon, and Marcus Littlewood powered the offense with a grand slam as the Sox topped the Eugene Emeralds 7-1 at Everett Memorial Stadium in a Northwest League game.
“We were hoping we would get that one,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said about the lost shutout. “But the guys pitched great tonight, again. Victor (Sanchez, Everett’s starter) was really good, and the bullpen came in and did a good job.”
The Sox were coming off a 2-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canadians the previous evening, and with Sanchez leading the charge Everett seemed well on its way to the double. That’s no small feat, considering the Sox had just one shutout this season prior to Saturday.
But the shutout came to an end in dubious fashion when, with two out in the top of the ninth, a Blake Hauser pitch got under catcher Christian Carmichael for a passed ball. River Stevens scored from third to spoil the party.
“I was giving them crap after the game,” Littlewood said with a laugh. “We’ll get them next time.
“We’re excited,” Littlewood added. “We’re getting things going again. We had a team meeting a couple days ago just to get ourselves straight, and we’re heading in the right direction now.”
Littlewood finished with five RBI — all of them coming with two out — and Ketel Marte went 4-for-4 and scored three runs for Everett (12-14 second half, 40-24 overall), which regained its edge on Eugene (15-12, 39-25) for the Northwest League’s best overall record.
Stevens went 2-for-4 to pace the Emeralds. Eugene also received 10 strikeouts in 41/3 innings from reliever Juan Marcano. However, Marcano also served up Littlewood’s grand slam.
Everett’s pitching kept the Emeralds guessing for 26 outs. Sanchez, the 17-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, finally picked up his sixth win after coming up short in his previous four attempts. In six shutout innings he allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five. Sanchez didn’t allow a runner past second base.
“He had three pitches he could throw for strikes today,” Mummau said of Sanchez. “He kept them off balance and threw a ton of strikes.”
Oliver Garcia followed up with two scoreless innings, pitching out of a jam in the seventh. Eugene had a chance to break Everett’s scoreless string when the Emeralds loaded the bases with one out, with the aid of two booted grounders. But Garcia struck out Corey Adamson, then got Stephen Carmon to ground out to second, keeping the shutout intact.
Littlewood put the game out of reach in the bottom of the seventh. Everett loaded the bases with nobody out on a pair of bunt singles by Brock Hebert and Mike Faulkner, and a blooper by Marte that was dropped by Adamson in right. Marcano recovered by striking out Everett’s three and four hitters in the batting order — Taylor Ard and Patrick Kivlehan. But Littlewood stepped in and belted a pitch over the fence in left to turn it into a rout.
“I’m just happy I could come through for the team right there,” Littlewood said. “I’ve had a couple tough at-bats with guys on base, esepcially with runners in scoring position.”
Everett grabbed the lead in bottom of the first inning. The Sox put runners at second and third with one out. Kivlehan’s groundout toward the hole between first and second brought home the first run. Littlewood belted a double off the center-field wall to bring home the second, staking the Sox to a 2-0 lead.
The Sox made it 3-0 in the third when Ard grounded an RBI double down the left-field line.
After the seventh all that was left for Everett to accomplish was the shutout, but the Sox came up one out short.