EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox were one out away from ending a four-game losing streak.
Miguel Aparicio had other plans. The Spokane Indians center fielder belted his first Northwest League grand slam against Everett reliever Michael Rivera with two outs in the top of the ninth.
The blast provided the winning margin as the Indians withstood a two-run Everett rally in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win before 3,499 fans at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a tough loss for the team especially for the situation we’re in right now,” Everett pitching coach Danny Acevedo said. “I think we’re going to get better. Our bullpen is a little bit tired right now from overuse, but we’re going to be fine.”
Aparicio’s grand slam capped a drama-filled top of the ninth. Everett entered the frame with a 3-2 lead. Matt Clancy surrendered a walk and a hit sandwiched around a strikeout, prompting Everett manager Jose Moreno to summon Rivera from the bullpen. But before Rivera threw a pitch, he balked.
The trouble was, the call came from the home-plate umpire who belatedly made the call rather than immediately. That brought Moreno running out of the dugout to argue and he was ejected from the game.
With runners at second and third, the Everett coaching staff elected to walk Kobie Taylor intentionally to set up a potential game-winning double play. Rivera induced a flyout from Jonah McReynolds, but Aparicio ripped a 1-1 split-finger over the right-center-field wall for Spokane’s only lead of the game to make it 6-3.
“It was a group decision,” Acevedo said of the choice to walk Taylor. “When you’re in a situation with a guy like our closer on the mound, it’s a perfect situation to get a double play. We’re not worried about the guy on first base, we’re worried about the guy on second in that situation.”
In his last six games — all against Everett — Aparicio was 12-for-26 for a .462 average with two homers, seven RBI and 10 runs scored.
“He’s a good hitter and we know that,” Acevedo said. “The decision to throw that pitch (split-finger) I think was right. It was the right pitch and he was able to drive that one, but the decision to throw the split-finger there I think was the right decision.”
Everett mounted its own rally in the bottom of the ninth. Ronald Rosario led off with a double and Chris Torres walked. One out later Eugene Helder chased home Rosario with a sacrifice fly, and Johnny Adams hit a double off the fence in left to score Torres to cut the deficit to 6-5.
Onil Pena followed with a walk to put the winning run on first, but David Banuelos flew out to end the game.
The win overshadowed a strong pitching performance from Everett starter Oliver Jaskie. He worked the first three innings for Everett and allowed just a walk while fanning five prior to yielding for reliever David Hesslink, who went the next two innings, allowing a run on three hits.
“Jaskie has been working really hard all season long and I think we’re starting to see the benefits right now,” Acevedo said. “It’s going the right direction right there.”
Everett took its initial lead when Pena led off the bottom of the second inning with an opposite-field home run to the grassy berm in right field for a 1-0 advantage. Adams singled with two outs in the third, advanced to third base on an error, and scored on a wild pitch to push Everett’s lead to 2-0.
Matt Whatley’s solo home run leading off the fifth for Spokane cut Everett’s lead to 2-1.
Rosario seemingly provided some needed insurance leading off the bottom of the seventh with his fourth home run of the season to right-center to make it 3-1, but Aparicio reached on an error in the eighth and scored on an RBI groundout by Tyler Ratliff.
Banuelos finished 3-for-5 while Adams and Rosario each had two hits. Rivera (0-1) took the loss.
Alex Eubanks (2-0) earned the win and Argenis Rodriguez got the save for Spokane.
The AquaSox now have three days off for the All-Star break. Everett resumes play at 6:35 p.m. on Thursday at Salem-Keizer.
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