EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox are approximately one-third of the way through their 76-game regular-season Northwest League schedule. So far their season has been one of competing streaks.
The Frogs (12-13) began the season with a three-game home losing streak before a seven-game winning streak propelled them to the North Division lead.
But the AquaSox return home Wednesday to Everett Memorial Stadium looking to end a five-game losing streak that has seen them fall one game behind the Vancouver Canadians and Tri-City Dust Devils — the two teams who have dealt Everett its five consecutive losses.
Tuesday was an off day for the entire NWL — just Everett’s second day off since the season began on June 15 and the final scheduled off day until the All-Star break begins Aug. 6.
Wednesday begins an eight-game homestand that first brings the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (14-11) to town for a five-game set. The Volcanoes have dropped four of their past five contests.
Salem-Keizer, the short-season affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, boasts 2018 first-rounder Joey Bart on its current roster. Bart, a catcher, was recently promoted from the rookie-league team in Arizona and is slashing .304/.333/.870 with four home runs and 11 RBI in just five games with the Volcanoes.
Salem-Keizer has a prolific offense that leads the NWL in most offensive categories including home runs (25), RBI (123) total bases (390) and is collectively slashing .289/.358/.448.
Meanwhile, the main difficulty for Everett during this most recent stretch has been its futility at the plate.
The Frogs were shut out three straight games before finally breaking the string in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss at Kennewick as the Dust Devils completed the three-game sweep.
Everett tallied six hits in each of the games in which it was shut out, and had just four in Monday’s defeat. Everett is now tied for last in the Northwest League in hitting with a .218 batting average. The AquaSox are seventh in both on-base percentage (.297) and slugging percentage (.330).
At least one AquaSox hitter is bucking the team-wide trend of futility at the plate.
Infielder Connor Kopach has been a revelation both at the plate and in the field despite being a relatively unheralded prospect taken by the Mariners in the 25th round of this year’s draft out of Southern Illinois.
Kopach homered in his first career game and is slashing .333/.400/.472 with seven extra-base hits in 72 at-bats with six stolen bases for the Frogs. Kopach is seventh in the NWL in hitting and has hit safely in six of his last seven games entering Monday’s contest.
Defense has been Everett’s calling card early in the season although a three-error game on July 5 led to seven unearned runs in an 8-4 loss to Vancouver. The Frogs committed a pair of errors in Monday’s 5-1 loss at Tri-City and have now committed 16 in 25 games.
Everett’s pitching has been mixed. Emerging ace Jheyson Caraballo took a 3-0 record and a 2.61 earned-run average into Monday’s start at Tri-City. He suffered his first loss of the season as he went just four innings in the 5-1 defeat, but leads NWL starters in ERA at 2.92. The Mariners picked up Caraballo as a minor-league free agent this past offseason after the Venezuelan right-hander was released after two seasons with the Houston Astros organization.
The AquaSox relief pitching corps has been strong and is led by Jamal Wade who has a 0-1 record with one save, a 2.08 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 13 innings over eight appearances.
Joey Gerber, Seattle’s eighth-round pick out of Illinois, boasts a mid-90s fastball and is 1-0 with three saves, a 2.35 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 7 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. He was described as perhaps the most “big-league ready” player selected by the Mariners in this year’s draft.
Rob Whalen is tentatively scheduled for a four-inning stint on the mound Wednesday for Everett. Whalen, who has spent most of the season with Triple-A Tacoma and made one appearance with the Seattle Mariners, allowed two solo home runs in a two-inning stint on July 6 as he continues his rehabilitation from shoulder inflammation.
The Spokane Indians come to town for a three-game series following the five games with Salem-Keizer.
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