Let’s get the prelims out of the way and get to the main event.
The Tri-City Dust Devils finished the Northwest League baseball regular season on a strong note Sunday, beating the Spokane Indians 9-2 at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.
Carlos Belen had a triple, double and drove in three runs for Tri-City, while starter Emmanuel Ramirez struck out 10 batters in five innings to raise his record to 2-1.
That victory also meant the Dust Devils finished the season on a six-game winning streak, sweeping their last two opponents (Vancouver and Spokane) three games to none, and finishing the season with a 42-34 record, which tied them with the Everett AquaSox for the best overall record in the North Division.
Only the Hillsboro Hops, the Southern League overall champs, had a better record at 45-31.
But Tri-City doesn’t have much time to relish its winning record. The team plays at Everett at 7:05 p.m. today in Game 1 of a best-of-3 North Division playoff series. The weather forecast in Everett on Monday is partly cloudy with a high of 72.
Game 2 is set for 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Gesa Stadium. If a Game 3 is necessary, that will be played at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Gesa Stadium.
Everett vs. Tri-City
The AquaSox won the regular-season series over the Dust Devils 7-5.
But five of those games were decided by one run.
And that six-game win streak could give the Dust Devils a lot of momentum heading into the postseason. Meanwhile, Everett finished the regular season on a four-game losing streak.
The key for Tri-City pitchers will be to keep leadoff hitter and shortstop Drew Jackson off of the bases for Everett. The NWL MVP hit .358 against the rest of the league this season. But against Tri-City, Jackson is a sizzling .432 (16 for 37) at the plate.
Everett outfielder Braden Bishop has also shined at the plate with a .320 average. Another guy who gives Dust Devils pitchers fits is Everett 1B Ryan Uhl.
Reliever Rohn Pierce has done well against the Dust Devils, as has lefty reliever Joe Pistorese, the recent Washington State University product. But Pistorese was suspended 50 games on Friday for testing positive for amphetamines in violation of the minor-league drug program and will be unavailable.
For the Dust Devils, it’s been a team effort when it comes to playing Everett. No one has really stood out this season in the series, as a different player seems to come up big each night.
But reliever Phil Maton has done a good job of keeping the Sox at bay. He has a 4-2 record, a 1.38 ERA, and leads the Dust Devils with 58 strikeouts.
Elvin Liriano (2.23 ERA), Wilson Santos (2.63) and Brett Kennedy (2.70) all have earned run averages under 3.00.
First baseman Ty France leads Tri-City in hitting (.292 batting average and 20 doubles), and outfielder Rod Boykin (49 runs, 19 stolen bases), outfield Jose Carlos Urena (7 homers and 44 RBIs) and shortstop Peter Van Gansen (71 hits and 4 triples) are other offensive leaders for the Dust Devils.
Kennedy (0-2, 2.70 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Dust Devils on Monday against the AquaSox, who are slated to start righty Andrew Moore (1-1, 2.25), who pitched at Oregon State in the spring.
Game 2’s projected starters are Luiz Gohara (3-7, 6.20) for Everett against Tri-City lefty Liriano (4-1, 2.23).
If there is a Game 3 on Wednesday, right now it’s set to be Enyel De Los Santos (3-0, 4.06) against Tri-City’s Adrian De Horta (2-1, 3.26).
Tri-City moves: Aug. 31, LHP Weadean and RHP Trey Wingenter assigned to Tri-City from Arizona League Padres. ... Sept. 1, LHP Jose Castillo assigned to Fort Wayne from Tri-City. ... Sept. 3, RHP Samuel Holland assigned from Tri-City to San Antonio Missions. RHP Corey Kimber assigned to Lake Elsinore Storm from Tri-City.
Everett moves: Aug. 28, released LHP Taylor Byrd; LHP Ryan Horstman assigned to Everett from Clinton. ... Sept. 1, 2B Jordan Cowan assigned to Everett from Bakersfield Blaze. ... Sept. 4, Everett placed LHP Joe Pistorese on the restricted list.
More on playoffs
The Southern Division playoff series also begins Monday, with Hillsboro playing at Salem-Keizer. The next two games will be at Hillsboro.
The Hops, who are the defending NWL champs, won both the first and second halves in the South. Because of that, their playoff opponent becomes the team with the next best overall record in the South. That would be the Volcanoes at 39-37.
All-star team announced
Everett’s Jackson was named the league’s MVP and AquaSox manager Rob Mummau was named the top skipper on the 2015 year-end Northwest League All-Star Team, which was announced Saturday.
Hillsboro’s Carlos Hernandez was named the league’s top pitcher.
The Dust Devils had two players named to the team: Urena in the outdield and pitcher Walker Lockett, who is with the Arizona League Padres now.
Other all-stars include Salem-Keizer catcher Miguel Gomez, Boise first baseman Brian Mundell, Eugene second baseman Frandy Delarosa, and Boise third baseman Kevin Padlo.
Besides Urena, the rest of the outfield consists of Spokane’s LeDarious Clark and Everett’s Bishop. The designated hitter is Vancouver’s Sean Hurley.
The rest of the pitching staff is Eugene’s Oscar De La Cruz, Salem-Keizer’s Andrew Leenhouts and Hillsboro’s Jared Miller.
The team was voted on by all eight managers and each team’s front office staff.