The Northwest League East Division playoff race will come down to the last regular-season game, but Spokane will need a win and some help.
The Indians had a chance to take control of their playoff destiny but didn’t take advantage, falling 7-5 to the Everett AquaSox in front of 4,922 Friday at Avista Stadium.
First-half champion Tri-City clinched the East second-half title with a 3-1 victory over Salem-Keizer. That means the East’s second playoff berth will go to the team with the second-best overall record – Boise (35-40) or Spokane (34-41).
If Spokane beats Everett and Boise loses to Vancouver, the Indians own the tiebreaker on the basis of a better divisional winning percentage in the second half. Boise, which saw its four-game winning streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to Vancouver, earns a playoff spot with a win or a Spokane loss.
“We’ve kind of scuffled down the stretch, but to still be in the chase is huge and we still have a lot of fight in us,” Indians first baseman Brett Nicholas said. “We have to hope Vancouver comes through.”
The Boise-Vancouver game begins at 10:35 (Pacific) this morning so the Indians will know if they have a shot at the playoffs prior to taking the field for their 6:35 contest. Everett makes the playoffs with a win and a Eugene loss.
It wasn’t so much that the AquaSox got their bats going after mustering just 10 hits and one run in the previous two games. They were the beneficiaries of seven walks and a hit batsman, four of those eventually scored. Lead-off batter Marcus Littlewood walked four times and scored twice.
Spokane starter Carlos Melo didn’t make it out of the second inning. He gave up two hits, walked four and plunked Jabari Blash in the middle of Everett’s three-run first inning.
“Walks always come back to bite you,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “The guys that pitched tonight have struggled now and then, and walks have been their nemesis.”
Everett delivered several key two-out hits – Ramon Morla’s two-run single in the first, James Wood’s RBI single in the fifth and Mario Yepez’s two-run triple in the sixth. The latter skipped past diving center fielder Zach Cone’s glove, boosting Everett’s lead to 6-2 in the sixth.
Spokane came back with one run in the bottom of the sixth as Nicholas doubled, moved to third on Yefry Castillo’s infield single and scored on a double-play grounder by Jimmy Swift.
The Indians closed within 6-5 in the seventh when Nicholas’ double drove in Hanser Alberto and Rougned Odor.
Yepez’s fourth hit, a two-out RBI single, bumped the AquaSox lead to 7-5 in the eighth. Tim Griffin picked up his seventh save with a scoreless ninth.
“We just couldn’t get a big inning going,” Hulett said. “Not enough timely hits. We had plenty of guys on base.”
Castillo had two hits, giving him seven – four for extra bases – in the first four games of the series.