Pitching has been hard to come by in recent days for the Everett AquaSox. That’s made the addition of Bryan Woo all the more important for the Sox.
With promotions and injuries stripping the Sox of their top hurlers, Woo has come in and filled the role of stopper to perfection, something he exhibited during last week’s six-game home series against the Vancouver Canadians.
Everett currently ranks last in the Northwest League in both runs allowed (5.5 per game) and ERA (4.87). But it’s been worse over the last month, following the promotions of starters Bryce Miller and Prelander Berroa and closer Isaiah Campbell. In the past 30 days the Sox have allowed 6.4 runs per game and have a league-worst ERA of 5.77.
The pitching woes reached their nadir during last week’s series against the Canadians. Everett had a five-game stretch, incorporating the last two games of its series at Tri-City and the first three games against the Canadians, in which it allowed double digits in four of the five, and in the fifth one the Sox gave up nine. Everett lost all five.
Enter Woo, a 22-year-old right-handed starter who arrived from Low-A Modesto at the beginning of August. Woo, a sixth-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 2021 draft, had his final season at Cal Poly end prematurely and the start of his professional career delayed because of Tommy John surgery on his elbow. But the hard thrower with a nasty slider hasn’t missed a beat, as he’s been exceptional since making his pro debut in June at the Rookie level.
Woo’s fantastic start in last Friday’s 3-1 defeat — six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out a career-high 11 — was a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Sox. Everett didn’t win the game, but the string was broken, and the Sox went on to win the last two games of the series.
“That was just an awesome performance by Bryan,” Everett manager Eric Farris said. “Those first few games there were a lot of runs coming across the board, and keeping the game tight was very important for us at that juncture of the series. Him coming in and keeping the offense at bay was great. He’s been a pretty standout guy since he’s been here.”
In four starts with Everett Woo is 1-1 with an 0.89 ERA, walking four and striking out 29 in 20.1 innings. He’s zoomed to No. 15 in MLB.com’s ranking of Mariners prospects.
“He’s just got a really good ability to dominate the strike zone and throw strikes,” Farris said. “He has a really good fastball that he’s able to locate it and put in good spots, and he’s not afraid use it. He’s consistent with his slider which gets swings and misses, and he has a changeup. All his stuff is really good. With his ability to command the baseball I see him having a lot of success if he keeps throwing like he has been.”
After going 2-4 against Vancouver the Sox are 21-27 in the second half (52-61 overall) and in fourth place in the second-half standings, 9.0 games behind Eugene with three series remaining.
Players of the week
Hitter: Charlie Welch. The 22-year-old catcher, who was a 19th-round pick by Seattle in the 2021 draft, just recently returned from a thumb injury. But he came back swinging as in four games last week he batted 8-for-16 with four doubles, one home run, 10 RBI and a 1.557 OPS. He had four hits and drove in six runs in last Tuesday’s 12-8 defeat in the series opener against Vancouver as he did everything he could to rally the Sox from a 9-1 deficit.
Pitcher: Kelvin Nunez. Nunez, a right-handed reliever from the Dominican Republic, had a terrible first outing for Everett when he allowed seven runs in 1.1 innings against Hillsboro on Aug. 6. But he’s been unscored upon since then, and last week he was perfect in his two outings, throwing three spotless innings while striking out four.
The week ahead
Everett is home for the second straight week as the Sox host Spokane in a six-game series beginning Tuesday. Spokane, an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, is 24-23 in the second half (58-53 overall) and in third place in the second-half standings, 5.5 behind Eugene. Everett is 8-10 against Spokane this season.
Spokane is led by the likes of shortstop Julio Carreras (.298 batting average, 11 home runs, 59 RBI), catcher Drew Romo (.276, five homers, 54 RBI) and designated hitter Colin Simpson (.283, 15 homers, 49 RBI), while midseason additions in first baseman Hunter Goodman and third baseman Warming Bernabel have bolstered the attack. Left-hander Joe Rock (7-7, 4.11 ERA, 104 strikeouts in 103 innings) has been the workhorse Spokane’s pitching staff.