You couldn't have ordered up a better day at Gesa Stadium for the Tri-City Dust Devils' home opener against the Everett AquaSox. Looks like a sellout crowd, too.
Roberto Padilla, a left-hander, gets the start for Tri-City. He'll go against Victor Sanchez of Everett.
Between the two teams, there's some local flavor, too, with three Washington State products on the rosters. The Dust Devils have 3B Matt Argyropoulos and recently-signed outfielder Derek Jones. The AquaSox have seventh-rounder Taylor Ard, a first-baseman who signed early enough to be in the starting lineup tonight.
There are a few fun additions to the park this year. The outfield wall has a little added dimension with the addition of a couple signs above the fenceline. There's a sign near the left field foul pole by Rick's Custom Fencing in the shape of — you guessed it — a picket fence. If a Dust Devils player hits a home run "over the fence", Rick's is offering a $100 cash prize to a lucky fan and a chance to win 100 feet of free fencing at the end of the year.
There's another similar ad in right center field under the Lourdes Urgent Care sign that says DROP IN — basically it's just a pair of legs pointing straight up in the air. Picture a guy who just got dumped in a garbage can headfirst.
Padilla looking really good for Tri-City on the mound. The leadoff batter in the first, Jamodrick McGruder, doubled on a pop fly down the left field line that was misjudged a bit by left fielder Dillon Thomas. But Padilla got out of trouble, stranding McGruder at third and has retired eight in a row through three innings.
He's mixing his speeds well, using a fastball in the low 90s with a solid curve and an ever-improving changeup.
Tri-City gets its first run of the year in the bottom of the second. Dillon Thomas, a 19-year-old outfielder whose rookie year was cut short by a broken hand last year, lined a leadoff double to left center. Former Oregon State product Joey Wong, who made his pro debut here in 2009, then drove him in with a one-out grounder to second.
Everett evens it back up at 1 in the top of the fourth after a leadoff walk to Michael Faulkner came back to haunt him. Ard then drove him in with a one-out grounder to second.
That's Ard's first pro RBI. Congrats to the former Cougars' star.
I've got Padilla at 78 pitches through six innings. Tri-City skipper Fred Ocasio said he was stretched out enough to go 90 pitches if needed. But he's going to stop after 5 2/3, allowing two runs — one earned — on just one hit.
That last pitch was the killer. With two outs and a runner on third, Padilla induced a hard ground ball right to shortstop Zach Osborne, who was making his professional debut. But Osborne came up a bit too early on the ball, and it bounced off his glove for an error, allowing Chris Taylor to score from third.
AquaSox lead 2-1 after six innings.
I feel bad for Padilla, who pitched magnificently in his first pro start. He had his rookie season cut short last year after just two relief appearances. Padilla had good command through the first five innings before falling behind a bit in the sixth. Overall, he looked fantastic, but he is on the hook for the loss if things stay as they are.
I feel horribly for Osborne, too, who commits the error on the first defensive chance as a pro. Padilla left the game after the error, and you could see Osborne hanging his head while Josh Hungerman warmed up.
I hope he's got a short memory. He's going to get a lot more chances this year, and he could be a pivotal player for Tri-City by the time it's all over with.
How about that. Osborne came up to bat with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, worked the count to 3-2 and then bounced a grounder back up the middle for his first pro hit.
Looks like he may have already forgotten about the error.
Osborne got to second on a walk to Anthony Aguilera. Yastifel Roja — the No. 9 hitter — then fought off an outside pitch and lined it for a single to left field. Ocasio waved Osborne around third, but the throw from left fielder Janelfry Zorilla beat Osborne to the plate by a good five steps.
Everett still leads 2-1 after seven.
AquaSox haven't had a hit since that leadoff double in the first, but two leadoff walks have come around to score. Gee, I wonder what pitching coach Dave Burba will talk to his pitchers about in tomorrow's clubhouse meeting?
Dust Devils put runners in scoring position in each of final three innings but can't take advantage. Everett reliever Oliver Garcia allows leadoff walk to Francisco Sosa but then retires next three batters to preserve Sox lead.
Everett wins 2-1.