Here’s a breakdown of the Northwest League championship series between the Everett AquaSox, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, and the Spokane Indians, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers:
The championship series pits the league’s two best offenses against one another. During the regular season Spokane led the league in batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.353) and runs scored (410). Everett led the league in slugging percentage (.412), OPS (.750) and finished second in runs scored (376).
Spokane’s offense is led by the league’s Most Valuable Player, Jared Hoying, while Michael Olt gives the Indians another power bat in the middle of the lineup. Beyond that Spokane has no heavy hitters, but the Indians salt the rest of the lineup with players who specialize in getting on base, including Andrew Clark and Joshua Richmond.
Under normal circumstances the Sox offense would match Spokane’s. However, the promotion of slugger Kevin Mailloux on Wednesday left a gaping hole in the middle of the lineup. Everett needs the likes of leadoff batter Robbie Anston and cleanup hitter Kevin Rivers to produce in order to keep up.
Everett’s starting options are limited because of promotions, but the playoff schedule worked out for the Sox. The combination of sweeping the division series, along with the off day Friday, means all three of Everett’s stalwart starters — right-hander Chris Sorce, left-handers Edlando Seco and Anthony Fernandez — are available, though Seco is not scheduled to start in the series. The series schedule also means the Sox should be able to manage their bullpen to give the bulk of the work to the likes of Austin Hudson, Willy Kesler and Tyler Burgoon.
Spokane will turn to right-handers Nicholas McBride and Tim Stanford in the first two games. McBride was solid but unspectacular this season, Stanford has been solid since switching from the bullpen. The Indians have many good options in the bullpen, led by Benjamin Rowen and Colby Killian. However, Spokane’s relievers have been vulnerable to the walk.
Each team also has one mystery starter scheduled for the series as Everett’s Jandy Sena and Spokane’s Carlos Melo both appeared just once for their respective teams.
Both teams play solid defense, and for both teams the standout is at shortstop. Everett’s Anthony Phillips is perhaps the most dependable defensive player in the league, having made just five errors all season. Spokane’s 17-year-old phenom Jurickson Profar made more errors during the season (16), but he has maybe the best defensive tools of any player in the league. Both give their team a solid defensive foundation from which to build.
As a team Everett committed slightly fewer errors than Spokane during the season. However, the Sox have to deal with a jury-rigged infield, with second baseman Terry Serrano filling in for Mailloux at third.
This series features the first-half winners in each division. Everett finished with a better overall record, but Spokane won the season series 6-4 — though the teams haven’t faced one another since July 12. Despite finishing second in the second half, both teams swept through the division series.
With two evenly-matched teams, it could come down to home-field advantage, owned by Everett, and the Sox were 30-8 at home during the season. And if it comes down to a decisive third game, Everett has the hard-nosed Anthony Fernandez ready to take the hill.
Prediction: Everett in three games