Playoff hopes dwindle for AquaSox after series loss to Tri-City

The confines of Gesa Stadium in Pasco once again proved to be unfriendly for Everett batters.

Dariel Gomez

Dariel Gomez

Gesa Stadium in Pasco has not been kind to Everett AquaSox hitters this summer.

The Sox just completed their second six-game road series against the Tri-City Dust Devils over the past five weeks, and once again Everett’s bats were quiet as the Sox dropped four of six to fall further behind in the Northwest League’s second-half race.

At a hot and spacious Gesa Stadium, where temperatures approached triple digits, Everett was shut out 4-0 in last Tuesday’s opener, setting the tone for the series. The Sox went on to score just 18 runs over the course of the six games, which is a mere 3.0 per contest. It was the exact same number of runs Everett scored during its six-game series at Tri-City on July 12-17, when the teams split the series 3-3. In comparison, the Sox have averaged 5.1 runs per game in their other 89 contests.

“It wasn’t our best series, it was a tough week,” Everett manager Eric Farris said. “We just had a really tough time bringing some runs across, and I didn’t think we played particularly well. We had some bright spots, but we didn’t get out of there with as many runs as we would have wanted.

“It’s easily the toughest park to hit in in this league, if you ask me,” Farris added. “It’s very windy with that open desert area. There are games where the winds is blowing in and days where it’s blowing out, and it’s a big yard where it’s tough to find the gaps. We just haven’t had much luck there this year, and I have to credit their pitchers, we weren’t able to do much with them.”

The second series loss leaves Everett in a tough position for making the postseason. The Sox dropped to 19-23 in the second half (50-57 overall) and are still stuck in fourth place in the standings, eight games behind first-place Eugene with four series remaining.

“Finish strong, that’s the message for us right now,” Farris said. “Four weeks seems like a small part of the season, but guys can really turn their seasons around in that time. There’s a lot of baseball still to play.”

One positive development for Everett was the return of catcher Charlie Welch from injury. Welch had been a reliable source of power before suffering a thumb injury that kept him out since June 23. But he returned Sunday and contributed a two-run double in Everett’s 12-3 loss. In addition, outfielder Spencer Packard, who was Everett’s top hitter before suffering a hamstring injury that’s sidelined him since June 17, is now on a rehab assignment with Peoria, the Seattle Mariners’ affiliate in the Rookie Arizona League. Farris said he expects to get Packard back at some point this season.

Stars of the week

Hitter: Dariel Gomez. The 26-year-old first baseman from the Dominican Republic only had four hits in the five games he appeared in during last week’s series. However, two of those were home runs, with one coming in each of Everett’s two victories. The second of those, in Friday’s 6-1 victory, was an inside-the-park job which took a funky bounce off the wall, allowing Gomez to score standing up and bring home three runs. Gomez now leads the Northwest League in homers with 21 in 93 contests.

Pitcher: Juan Mercedes. The 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, who was Everett’s Mr. Steady Eddie earlier this season, was roughed up in four of his previous six starts. However, he was back to his first-half form during Friday’s start, when in seven innings he allowed just one run on five hits and one walk while striking out eight to earn his sixth win, most among Sox starters.

The week ahead

Everett returns home this week for a six-game series against the Vancouver Canadians beginning Tuesday at Funko Field. Vancouver, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, is 24-17 in the second half (54-50 overall) and in second place in the Northwest League standings. However, the Canadians are reeling after losing five of six at Eugene in a series for control of first place — Vancouver now trails the Emeralds by 2.5 games. Everett is 10-8 against the Canadians this season.

The Canadians are led by right-handed starting pitcher Sem Robberse (4-4, 3.12 ERA, 24 walks and 78 strikeouts in 86.2 innings), who’s rated by MLB.com as the sixth-best prospect in the Blue Jays organization and is second in the league in ERA among qualifiers. Vancouver’s lineup was recently bolstered by the additions of outfielder Gabriel Martinez (No. 7 in the organization), who was called up from Low-A, and shortstop Alex De Jesus (No. 8), who was acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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