Jayson Aquino delivered the best start by a Tri-City Dust Devils pitcher this year.
Unfortunately, his departure was followed by the Dust Devils’ worst meltdown of the year in a 5-2 loss to the Everett AquaSox on Tuesday at Gesa Stadium.
Aquino allowed just one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, leaving the game with one out in the seventh and a runner on first base. Aquino’s replacement, Shawn Stuart, faced five batters but didn’t retire any of them.
Stuart, a second-year reliever, allowed two walks, two base hits — including a two-run single to James Zamarippa and an RBI triple to Jamodrick McGruder — and a suicide squeeze by Jack Reinheimer as the AquaSox erased a 2-0 first-inning deficit to strengthen their hold on first place in the Northwest League North Division.
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“What’s done is done. We’re going to fail. The important thing is come back the next day,” Tri-City manager Drew Saylor said. “Both clubs have shown they can come from behind. We just have to continue to fight.”
Everett (10-2) maintained a three-game lead over Vancouver (7-5), while Tri-City (5-7) and Spokane (7-5) both dropped into a two-way tie for third.The Dust Devils started out strong, tapping Everett starter Steven Ewing for two runs in the first inning.
Wilson Soriano drew a leadoff walk, and Alec Mehrten followed with a single to right to send Soriano to third. Mehrten advanced to second on a throwing error by right fielder Austin Wilson, setting up runners at second and third with no outs.
Mike Tauchman and Michael Benjamin both followed with RBI singles to put Tri-City up 2-0.
“That’s what we always talk about, getting out front,” Saylor said. “But we lost focus and started swinging at some bad pitches.”
Aquino was using a dizzying curve to keep AquaSox hitters off balance. Through four innings, Aquino induced 11 groundball outs — most of them easy bouncers — and allowed just one hit.
“He gave us the best opportunity to win,” Saylor said.
Stuart (1-1), who took the loss, has been a steady reliever on the road, not allowing a run in four games. He’s struggled at Gesa Stadium, however, giving up five earned runs in just a third of an inning over two appearances for a home ERA of 135.00.