A little bad luck may have played a role in the Tri-City Dust Devils’ latest downfall, a 5-1 Northwest League loss to the Everett AquaSox in front of 2,316 fans Saturday night at Gesa Stadium.
But even the Dust Devils would agree that bad luck can only go so far. Sometimes it comes down to just making plays when the opportunity is there.
“Me hitting into a double play with the bases loaded didn’t help,” said Sean Dwyer, who drove in Tri-City’s only run with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth. “We missed out on a couple big innings.”
It was Everett’s fifth win in a row and allowed the AquaSox to maintain a one-game lead in the North Division over Spokane, which beat Vancouver 3-2. The Dust Devils (12-18 second half, 31-37 overall), on the other hand, still have a chance to move up in the standings, but they have to move fast. With eight games left to play, Tri-City trails Everett (16-14, 39-29) by four games, a slim margin of error at best.
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But it isn’t about playing your best when you’re fighting for a playoff spot, according to Dust Devils first-year skipper Drew Saylor. It’s about playing your best every night.
“You stick with the plan for every single game. They all still count,” Saylor said. “
Everett starter Tommy Burns walked Patrick Hutcheson to lead off the bottom of the first, but Hutcheson collided with AquaSox second baseman Lonnie Kauppila, who was trying to field an infield grounder by Chris O’Dowd. Ruling that the collision prevented a potential double play, field umpire Adrian Gonzalez ruled Hutcheson and O’Dowd out.
“Their guy (Burns) did a good job staying down in the zone,” Saylor said. “We need to let the ball dictate what we do.”
The Dust Devils’ bad luck continued in the top of the second. After Austin Wilson scored on a one-out RBI single from Phillips Castillo, Tri-City starter Logan Norris hit Reggie Lawson with a pitch. Tri-City then missed a chance at a double play when shortstop Patrick Valaika’s throw to second pulled Hutcheson off the bag, leaving Lawson at second and Castillo at third.
Ian Miller followed with an infield single off Norris’ leg, scoring Castillo. Norris tried to throw out Miller at first but the ball bounced off his back and rolled toward the Dust Devils’ dugout as Lawson scored easily for a 3-0 lead.
Norris, who missed three weeks in late July and early August with a concussion, allowed another run on Wilson’s RBI double in the third, but he fought through trouble in the third and fourth before being relieved by Tony Bryant in the seventh.
“By the fourth inning, I was able to get back in a zone,” said Norris (0-3), who allowed four runs — three earned — on 10 hits over six innings.
Bryant, a Kennewick graduate and Oregon State product, allowed a run on a hit and two walks in 1 2/3 innings.
Burns (2-1) allowed just two Tri-City hits through the first five innings, but Sean Dwyer touched him up for a two-out RBI double down the line in left field, scoring Michael Benjamin to cut the lead to 4-1.
Dwyer came up with the bases loaded and one out two innings later, facing Burns after 86 pitches and representing the go-ahead run in a 4-1 game. But Burns threw an 0-1 fastball low in the zone and got Dwyer to ground to Kauppila at second base to start an inning-ending double play.
Notes: Today’s starters will be Tri-City RHP Johendi Jiminian (3-3, 3.08 ERA) against Everett LHP Nate Koneski (1-1, 6.30 ERA). ... Lawson left the game in some pain after swinging at a third strike to end the top of the third inning. He appeared to pull a muscle in his ribcage after swinging at strike two from Norris, doubling over at the waist. After a quick look from AquaSox trainer Spyder Webb, Lawson finished the at-bat but waved weakly at a fastball on the outside corner. ... Hutcheson was robbed of his first home run after his towering fly ball to right was knocked down by a steady wind blowing in from the west. Michael Faulkner, the right fielder, caught the ball a few feet short of the warning track. ... Dust Devils alumni update: OF Kent Matthes (2009) knocked his 10th home run of the year for the Triple-A Colorado Springs, a two-run shot that broke a 1-1 tie in a 3-1 home win over Sacramento. Manny Corpas (2003) earned his first save of the year.