By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Robbie Anston isn’t exactly renowned for his power. The enduring image of the Everett AquaSox outfielder is slapping a single to the opposite field, not admiring a deep drive over the fence.
But Anston made a rare dip into that power well Friday night and pulled out the decisive long ball, leading the Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Tri-City Dust Devils at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Anston belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead as Everett, playing at home for the first time in 11 days, opened the five-game series in victorious fashion.
And Anston was an unlikely candidate to deliver the biggest blow. The 6-foot, 185-pounder’s primary responsibility as Everett’s leadoff batter is getting on base and scoring runs, not driving them in.
“It’s great, I love hitting home runs,” said Anston, whose homer was just his second of the season. “I don’t do it very often, so when I do it’s kind of fun.”
Kevin Mailloux continued his torrid offensive streak for Everett (13-9 second half, 40-20 overall), going 2-for-4 with a homer to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. The homer was Mailloux’s eighth during the streak.
Leonardo Reyes had two hits and Nathan Hines drove in both runs for Tri-City (7-15, 24-36), which lost its third straight.
Everett hadn’t accomplished much offensively — the Sox managed just six hits in the game — before Anston struck in the fifth. Neither of the Everett runners on base at the time reached by hit as Steven Baron was walked and Billy Marcoe was hit by a two-strike pitch.
That brought Anston to the plate with two outs. On a 2-1 pitch he turned on a high fastball and skied it over the scoreboard in right-center, giving the Sox a lead they never relinquished.
“They’ve been working me away, and my approach was to go the other way,” Anston explained. “I thought they might come inside and I lucked out and they put one up in the zone. I elevated and got it out of the park.
“I feel like it’s somebody else (being the hero) every day,” Anston added. “I happened to be the guy today.”
Anston finished 2-for-3, continuing his recent renaissance. He was mired in a 1-for-18 slump, but in his past three games he’s 7-for-12, raising his average to .294.
“Lately he’s been hitting the ball really well,” Everett manager Jose Moreno said of Anston. “The last three or four games he’s been getting the bat in front, making a lot of contact. His approach before those four games was too anxious, he tried to do much. But now he’s being more patient and waiting for his pitch the way he was earlier in the year.”
Chris Sorce picked up the win for Everett. The right-hander cruised through four innings before laboring in the fifth. In five innings, he allowed two hits on five hits and one walk, striking out three. He improved his record to 6-2.
Sorce and the rest of Everett’s pitchers were aided by strong infield defense. Three times the Sox ended innings by turning double plays.
“That’s a big help for the pitchers when you have good defense around,” Moreno said. “We’re going to pitch to contact because we’ve got a good defensive team.”
Chris Kessinger, Tyler Burgoon and Jonathan Arias combined to produce four innings of scoreless relief for Everett. Arias worked out of a self-induced jam in the ninth, striking out three straight with two runners aboard to pick up his third save.
Everett grabbed an early lead in the bottom of the first inning when Mailloux wasted no time extending his hitting streak. With two out Mailloux lined a no-doubter out to dead center, staking the Sox to a 1-0 lead.
Sorce breezed through the Tri-City lineup through four innings, but the Dust Devils broke through in the fifth. With runners on second and third with one out, Hines pulled a breaking ball over the head of leaping first baseman Evan Sharpley, scoring both runners to give Tri-City a 2-1 lead.
But Anston restored Everett’s lead in the bottom of the fifth. Then the Sox picked up an insurance run in the seventh, thanks to confusion by Tri-City reliever Clint Tilford. With runners at the corners Marcoe grounded back to the mound. However, Tilford wasn’t sure what to do with the ball, looking at both second and first before deciding to try and get Kevin Rivers at the plate. The throw was both late and wide, and Everett went ahead 5-2.