Alberto Rodriguez

AquaSox set for final series of season

Everett was eliminated from playoff contention last week.

The Everett AquaSox’s slim hopes of making it to the postseason this year came to an end last week.

Everett was officially eliminated from playoff contention when it dropped five of six games in their road series against the Eugene Emeralds.

The Sox were in a tough position at the start of the week, trailing the first-place Emeralds by 8.0 games in the Northwest League’s second-half standings with just two weeks remaining in the season. However, the head-to-head series against Eugene offered a glimmer of hope if Everett could get hot against the Emeralds. The Sox probably needed a sweep to have a chance, but they headed into the series with momentum as they came in riding a three-game winning streak.

However, those hopes were quickly dashed when Eugene won the first two games of last week’s series. Everett delayed the inevitable with its 6-4 victory last Thursday. But the Sox were officially eliminated by their 6-5 loss the next day, when Everett had the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the top of the ninth inning, but the game ended on a double play. The loss rendered Everett’s final series of the season academic.

Everett is now 26-34 in the second half, which is 12.0 games behind Eugene, and 57-68 overall.

While Everett’s chance at the playoffs is over, the league still has to determine its second qualifier for the league championship series. Eugene won the first half to earn a playoff berth, and the Emeralds lead second-place Vancouver by 2.0 games in the second half, with the teams facing one another to end the season.

Vancouver is in pole position to be the second playoff team even if it doesn’t overtake Eugene in the second-half standings. If the Emeralds also win the second half, then the second playoff team will be the one with the next-best overall record. The Canadians, after taking five of seven from Spokane last week, lead the Indians by 4.5 games in the overall standings — Spokane finishes the season at Tri-City. Therefore, this week’s series between Eugene and Vancouver is likely a preview of the five-game championship series, which begins next Monday in Eugene.

Players of the week

Hitter: Alberto Rodriguez. It hasn’t been a banner season for the well-regarded outfield prospect from the Dominican Republic, and the 21-year-old only had three hits in 15 at bats over five games last week. However, two of the hits were homers, including a solo shot during Everett’s only win, and he spiked that with six walks to give him a 1.029 OPS. For the season he’s batting .262 with nine homers and 42 RBI in 115 games.

Pitcher: Peyton Alford. The 25-year-old left-handed reliever, who was signed by the Seattle Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in 2021, split time between Double-A Arkansas and High-A Everett this season. He’s had limited success since arriving in Everett in June, but he was fantastic last week as he allowed just one hit in 3.0 innings over two appearances, striking out five. The outings lowered his ERA from 5.19 to 4.66.

The week ahead

Everett finishes the season with a six-game home series against the Hillsboro Hops beginning Tuesday. Hillsboro, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 27-33 in the second half (56-68 overall) and in fourth place in the second-half standings, 11.0 behind Eugene and a single game ahead of the Sox. The Hops are coming off a 3-3 series split at home against Tri-City.

Everett and Hillsboro have played a wild season series that’s featured dramatic swings. The Sox hold a 13-10 series lead, and at one point they won 12 straight games against the Hops. However, Hillsboro has won the past five.

The Hops are led by infielder Deyvison De Los Santos (.278 batting average, nine homers, 33 RBI), who’s been Hillsboro’s top offensive player since being promoted in July, and infielder A.J Vukovich (.264, 15 homers, 69 RBI, 35 stolen bases), who leads the league in RBI. Right-handed pitcher Luke Albright leads the league in both innings pitched (119.0) and strikeouts (126).

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