The Everett AquaSox’s title hopes are dangling by a thread.
The AquaSox suffered their sixth consecutive series loss last week, dropping four of five games on the road to the first-place Eugene Emeralds.
That leaves Everett on the very fringe of a three-team race for the two spots in the High-A West championship series.
Entering the final week of the regular season, Eugene holds a one-game lead atop the league standings over the second-place Spokane Indians. The AquaSox are in third place in the six-team league, sitting 3.5 games behind Eugene and 2.5 games behind Spokane.
All three teams close the regular season with one final series this week. Everett (61-52) hosts Spokane (63-49) in a six-game set at Funko Field, while Eugene (65-49) is scheduled to face the last-place Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco. The series between Eugene and Tri-City was originally slated to be a six-game set, but Tuesday’s opener was canceled to allow for additional COVID-19 testing and contact tracing in the Dust Devils’ organization, according to the team’s Twitter account.
In order to leap Spokane and earn a spot in the championship series, the AquaSox most likely need to win at least five of their final six games this week.
It’s been a massive free fall for Everett, which seemed like a lock for the championship series six weeks ago. At that point, the AquaSox were in first place with a scorching 51-26 record. They had spent most of the season dominating the High-A West with a roster chock-full of talented prospects. And they were leading Eugene by 7.5 games and Spokane by 14.5 games — which seemed like an insurmountable gap at the time.
But as the season progressed, most of Everett’s top players got promoted. A whopping 14 players from the AquaSox’s season-opening roster have been called up to Double-A Arkansas this year, including 12 players between July 11 and Aug. 11. And in the wake of the mass exodus of prospects, Everett has gone just 10-26 over its past six series.
Yet even so, the AquaSox wouldn’t be in this situation if not for a red-hot tear by Spokane. The Indians are 26-8 over their past six series, including a 10-game win streak at one point.
So perhaps it’s fitting that Everett and Spokane close the regular season against each other, with a spot in the championship series on the line.
MORE TOUGH LOSSES
The AquaSox had a pair of particularly difficult losses last week. Last Tuesday, Everett blew 5-0 fourth-inning lead and fell 9-6. And in the opening game of Friday’s doubleheader, the AquaSox lost 2-1 in walkoff fashion as Eugene scored the winning run from second base on a single and ensuing fielding error by recently promoted right fielder Alberto Rodriguez. Everett has suffered nine one-run losses over the past six weeks.
MARTE HAS UP-AND-DOWN OPENING SERIES
Highly touted 19-year-old shortstop Noelvi Marte, one of the overall prospects in baseball, had an up-and-down first series with the AquaSox last week.
Marte went 5-for-18 with two doubles, two RBIs, three runs scored, a stolen base and no errors in 17 chances. But he also struck out in seven of his 19 plate appearances, including two strikeouts apiece in each of the final three games of the series.
Marte, a Dominican Republic native with immense raw power at the plate, is ranked as Baseball America’s No. 8 prospect and MLB.com’s No. 11 prospect. Prior to being called up to Everett at the start of last week, he batted .271 with 17 home runs, two triples and 24 doubles in 99 games with Low-A Modesto this season.
OTHER AQUASOX STANDOUTS
Here are some other players who stood out for Everett in last week’s series:
Cade Marlowe: The 24-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder went 6-for-20 with two home runs and six RBIs in the series. Marlowe is batting .258 with 19 homers, five triples and 18 doubles in 67 games with the AquaSox this season. And including his time with Low-A Modesto earlier in the year, he has 25 home runs in 101 games across both levels this season.
Adam Hill: The 24-year-old right-hander pitched seven strong innings in his start last Thursday. He allowed one earned run, two unearned runs and five hits, while striking out seven batters and walking two. In five starts with Everett since being demoted from Double-A Arkansas, Hill has a 3.60 earned-run average in 30 innings, with 36 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Jimmy Joyce: The 22-year-old right-hander started the first game of last Friday’s doubleheader and struck out seven batters in five innings pitched, while allowing one run, six hits and one walk. Joyce, a 16th-round pick out of Hofstra University in this summer’s MLB draft, has a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings over four starts for the AquaSox. He has struck out 32.5% of the batters he’s faced, with 25 punchouts and six walks.
Everett closes the regular season with a six-game series against Spokane that runs Tuesday through Sunday at Funko Field. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Friday’s game begins at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday’s finale starts at 4:05 p.m. Masks are required for all fans in attendance who are age 5 and older, in light of the state’s updated health and safety requirements.