AquaSox hope to break out of slump after anemic offensive showing

Everett returns home to face Hillsboro after being shutout in the final 3 games of its series against Vancouver.

Bryce MIller

Bryce MIller

When the Everett AquaSox return home for the first time in more than two weeks Tuesday they’re not just looking to end a losing streak, they’re hoping they can score a run.

A dismal series against the Tri-City Dust Devils ended in anemic fashion as the Sox were shut out in the final three games of their six-game series in Pasco.

Everett won just once in the six-game series, a 2-1 extra-inning affair in the opener. After that the Sox lost five straight, and Everett hasn’t crossed home plate in 27 consecutive innings after dropping the final three games of the series by scores of 8-0, 4-0 and 1-0.

The final loss was the most painful. The game was scoreless heading into the ninth, and Everett got the speedy Victor Labrada to second with one out in the top half of the inning, only to be unable to advance him further. Then the Dust Devils won it in the bottom half on Gabe Matthews’ walk-off single.

“We just didn’t hit many balls hard this past series,” Everett manager Eric Farris said. “I have to give credit to the Tri-City pitching staff, they were locating it well and keeping hitters off balance. We had some opportunities we weren’t able to cash in. We’re still battling and getting some guys on base, giving ourselves opportunities for a useful timely hit. It just didn’t work out that way for us.”

The numbers during that shutout string aren’t pretty. The Sox batted just 17-for-93 (.183) in those three contests, and they managed just a single extra-base hit: Myles Miller’s fifth-inning triple in Sunday’s 1-0 loss. Everett batters had more than twice as many strikeouts (35) as they had hits (17).

Everett has struggled in clutch situations throughout the season, batting just .172 with runners in scoring position. But the real issue for the Sox during their shutout string was just getting runners into scoring position in the first place, as Everett had just 11 chances in the three games.

“The series started off well with and exciting extra-inning win,” Farris said. “After that it was a tough series. We were up against, if you go by the numbers, a pretty good pitching staff. In general we didn’t have much offense this last week of games. Being that it was a long road trip and we were coming off a pretty decent series in Vancouver, we’re obviously disappointed we didn’t come out with more wins. A couple of the games were tight, it was just a couple of plays here or there that made the difference. All we can do is keep working on the process and trying to improve.”

The rough series against Tri-City dropped Everett’s record to 11-21, and the Sox remain in last place in the six-team Northwest League. Vancouver is the only other team in the league below .500, and at 14-15 the Canadians are just a half-game away from breaking even.

Stars of the week

Hitter: Tyler Keenan. It may not have been a good week for Everett’s bats, but Keenan did what he could to try and spark the offense. The 23-year-old corner infielder, who was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, batted .357 with a .900 OPS over the course of four games, including driving in what proved to be the winning run in the top of the 11th inning of the Sox’s 2-1 victory last Tuesday.

Pitcher: Bryce Miller. No one cam blame the 23-year-old right-hander, who was Seattle’s fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft, for Everett’s woes last week. Miller started two games and allowed just one unearned run on five hits and no walks over 11.1 innings, striking out 17 as he was particularly successful with his slider. That continues a fantastic season in which he’s compiled a 0.96 ERA and 0.64 WHIP in five starts with 37 whiffs in 28.0 innings.

The week ahead

Everett is hoping a return home following two weeks on the road is what’s needed to get back on track. The Sox host a six-game series against the Hillsboro Hops beginning Tuesday at Funko Field.

Hillsboro, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has won four straight to move into a tie with Eugene for first place in the Northwest League. Hillsboro doesn’t have a star-studded roster — third baseman A.J. Vukovich, who’s ranked No. 8 by among Diamondback prospects, is the only player among the organization’s top 14 who’s on the team.

The Hops, much to Everett’s chagrin, have been succeeding mostly because of their pitching, with right-hander John Carver (1.91 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 28.1 innings) leading the way. Hillsboro allowed Spokane just four runs during its current four-game winning streak.

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