EVERETT — It’s logical to think starting a former MLB All-Star pitcher before turning to a team’s ace would produce an ideal start to a playoff series.
But Seattle Mariners veteran Hisashi Iwakuma, who was making a rehab start for Everett during his journey to try and get back to the big-leagues, didn’t have his best. Everett’s top pitcher, Michael Plassmeyer, didn’t either.
“It was OK,” said Everett pitching coach Danielin Acevedo. “There were a couple of mistakes. The guys over there were hitting. It happens sometimes.”
The result left the AquaSox playing catch-up in their Northwest League North Division best-of-three series with the Spokane Indians.
Iwakuma and Plassmeyer yielded seven earned runs during the first three innings, and Everett suffered a 7-3 playoff loss Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 1,325 at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Now Everett will need to win a pair of games at Spokane in order to advance to the NWL Championship Series. Game 2 is slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s not over yet,” Acevedo said. “We got to go out tomorrow and put things together, hopefully, and we’ll see what happens.”
Everett earned the playoff berth by winning the Northwest League’s North Division during the season’s first half. Spokane won the league’s second half.
Iwakuma struggled through the only two innings of his rehab outing. The veteran right-hander threw 23 pitches in the first, giving up an earned run, a double, single and two walks before getting out of a bases-loaded situation. The run came off a J.P. Martinez double to right field.
An inning later, after a walk and a single, Spokane’s Curtis Terry ripped a two-run, two-out double high off the center-field wall to give the Indians a 3-0 lead.
In total, Iwakuma gave up three earned runs on four hits with three walks and a strikeout. He threw 47 pitches before giving way in the third to Plassmeyer, who was Everett’s best regular-season pitcher.
Everett’s Connor Kopach, who finished 2-for-3 and drove in all three AquaSox runs, trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the second when the shortstop sent a deep fly over the high 330-foot wall in right-center field, scoring Ryan Garcia. But Spokane wasted little time re-padding its lead.
Plassmeyer, the Mariners’ 2018 fourth-round pick, owned a 2.25 ERA entering Tuesday’s game and hadn’t given up a run in the 13 innings he’d pitched at Everett Memorial.
That streak quickly ended.
Following a groundout and a walk, Spokane’s Fransisco Ventura took Plassmeyer deep with a liner over the left-field wall, giving the Indians a third inning 5-2 lead. Two outs later, Plassmeyer was replaced by Noah Zavolas with two outs and the bases loaded.
Terry, who an inning prior homered, on Zavolas’ first pitch sent a flair into shallow right, scoring two more Indians and extending Spokane’s lead to 7-2.
Kopach drew a bases-loaded walk in the third, cutting Spokane’s lead to 7-3.
Zavolas kept Everett in the game with his impressive relief work. The right-hander tossed four shutout innings and struck out seven while only giving up two hits. But the AquaSox’s offense couldn’t take advantage.
“He’s been really good as a long reliever,” Acevedo said. “It’s been very helpful for the team to have him come out of the bullpen.”
From the fourth to the eighth inning, Spokane retired 14 straight AquaSox batters, and in the ninth Everett was retired in order.