EVERETT — AquaSox manager Louis Boyd will admit: His hand was throbbing after the AquaSox’s win on Friday night.
The culprit? Robert Perez Jr.
And who else could it be? The AquaSox slugger cranked a three-run homer to left field in the bottom of the 11th to propel the AquaSox to a key 8-5 victory over the Tri-City Dust Devils at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The homer, Perez Jr.’s fifth on the season, was great, but Boyd said he loved the steps that got him there.
“That two-strike, 1-2 slider that he took for a ball — check swing (before the home run). I mean, that’s the stuff that fires me up,” Boyd said. “The fact that now he’s controlling the zone better and he’s giving himself the opportunity to hit that walkoff homer. If he swings at that slider, he doesn’t even give himself the chance. It comes from putting himself in really good situations, and that’s what fires me up.”
The AquaSox (29-31, 11-11 second half) pulled within a game — once again — of Tri-City in the Northwest League second half standings with the win.
Perez Jr. has had a bit of a turbulent season, but he’s trending upward.
The 18-year-old was a bit of a sensation in Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .250 with three homers in 19 games.
But he got out to a bit of a slow start after being reassigned to his appropriate level — Short-Season A, hitting .180 in the first half of the season.
But he’s turned it around in the second half, hitting .298 with a .898 OPS, including a .361 average in his past 10 games entering Friday.
“I think I was just trying to do too much and putting pressure on myself to do better,” Perez Jr. said. “I’m feeling better now.”
Boyd said he’s improved his “self talk”, which has led to increased success at the plate.
“It’s been a complete mindset change,” Boyd said after Tuesday’s win over Hillsboro. “He’s going out there saying (to himself) that he’s a bad man. He’s a bad, bad man. He’s going up there with that mentality and really buying into it and believing in it, and when he does that, he is a bad man. He’s got the raw power that you look for in a prospect. When he’s on time to the fastball and he recognizes breaking pitches that are up in the zone … the sky is the limit for him.”
The Dust Devils went ahead 1-0 in the third on Kelvin Melean’s RBI single, but the AquaSox jockeyed ahead in the fourth after Trent Tingelstad and Cade Marlowe hit back-to-back doubles and Robert Perez Jr. singled to go ahead 2-1.
Everett added to its lead after Utah Jones smacked a RBI triple to right field and later scored on a fielding error to put the Sox up 4-1 in the fifth.
Tri-City erased the deficit with three runs in the sixth, though, as Jason Pineda drove in a run with a single and Jack Stronach tied the game by flicking a two-run single to left field.
The Dust Devils scored on a wild pitch from Deivy Florido with the bases loaded to take a 5-4 lead in the 10th. But Jones knotted the score again at 5-5 after his RBI single scored Kevin Santa, the inherited runner, from second base.
Josh Horton covers the Everett AquaSox for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @joshhortonEDH.