Week 17 : Trapped in Splitsville
Week 17 is nearing the end of the season. There are 18 games left. The Hops are twelve and a half games out of first. Twelve games out of the playoffs. Still, the Hops are in it… mathematically. I doubt the team is making hotel reservations just in case.
Reach the Mountaintop
For the Hops, the mountain top is just getting back to a five hundred record. But, that is still eleven wins away. That is more reachable. However, the Hops have spent the season climbing that mountain, getting close, and then slipping back down. In other words, the epic story of Sisyphus, eternally pushing the boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down after getting close to the top.
I still have hope for the mountaintop but the Hops have to stop splitting the series and go on a tear in the win column.
This Past Week
Week 17: At the Plate:
The offense reached a high last week when the team batted .262. I’ll be honest. I was expecting it to slide back down to norm. I did not expect the team average to go up and I really didn’t expect it to go up that much. The Hillsboro Hops, perennially around the .220-.240 range, hit .317 or 79 points above average (currently .238). Two players batted .500 for the week: Nick Dalesandro (5 for 10) and Luvin Valbuena (2 for 4).
There were a lot more. 13 batters reached the plate for the Hops this week. Ten of them hit above team average. Other notables were: Tristin English (10 for 24, .416); AJ Vukovich (9 for 24, .375); Ronny Simon (8 for 23, .347); Cam Coursey (7 for 21, .333); and Blaze Alexander (7 for 22, .318).
The extra offense also showed up elsewhere. Runs jumped from 22 to 45. RBIs jumped from 21 to 45. And hits? 48 to 66. Finally, total bases were raised from 76 to and even 100. Individually, the team was led by Jorge Barrosa (8 runs), Tristin English (10 hits, 17 total bases), Blaze Alexander and AJ Vukovich (8 RBIs).
Extra Base Hits
Extra base hits were more of a mixed bag. Doubles, after falling from ten to just one double in the previous week, jumped back up to nine this week. Triples had an amazing week jumping from one to three this week. The Hops three triples – all by Cam Coursey. The man, a Georgian native, managed to tie the season lead in just one week. Add to that a triple from a previous week and Cam now has the lead.
Home runs are the equalizer for all the growth. Homers dropped from eight to five. Not a huge drop but the only offensive category to have a drop. This might be a sign from losing Eduardo Diaz and Andy Yerzy to AA Amarillo recently since they were the home run leaders for the team. However, the team showed a few candidates ready to take their place. It is just that each night seemed to be a different candidate.
Week 17: From the Mound:
With three wins and three losses, we at least have some winners to talk about the week after a sweep.
The winners this week were Austin Pope (1-0), Marcos Tineo (2-1) and Justin Vernia (3-5). In addition, there was also one hold: Liu Fuenmayor with his first Hold, and two saves: Liu Fuenmayor with his first save and Yaramil Hiraldo with his team-leading eighth save. Overall, the Hops went 3-3 and are currently 45-56.
In the ERA department, we have another mixed bag. The Hops starters either breezed through the other team’s lineup or were hit very hard by them. Only Justin Vernia survived an onslaught by having enough offensive support behind him to pull off a win. The starters were led by Marcos Tineo (1.50 ERA) and Blake Walston (1.95 ERA).
Relievers were more of the same. The Hops had four relievers who sailed through the week allowing no runs: Gerald Ogando (2.1 IP), Austin Pope (3.2 IP), Mailon Arroyo (2 IP) and Wesley Rodriguez (3 IP).
However, if we look at the team totals for the week, we don’t easily see the reasons for the split. The previous week had a 7.85 ERA. This week, it dropped down to a 6.04 ERA. For the starters, the drop went from a 8.65 ERA to a 7.82 ERA. The relievers, which includes closers, dropped from a 6.85 ERA to a 4.45 ERA. All drops. So why did the Hops split the series when the pitching and batting improved?
The answer is simply one bad outing in a close game. The Hops competed very well except for a small section where they would struggle to get a hit or just couldn’t get an out. Look back at the scores of the games: 8 to 1, 11-4, 6-8, 7-8, 9-6 and 4-8. Granted, there are some big winning margins but look closely. They were all Hops’ wins averaging almost a six run winning margin. The other three? All Hops’ losses that averaged a two run losing margin. All of the losses were close games.
Difference Between .500 and Winning Record
They all had their bad small sections of struggles. It is just that the wins had a margin large enough to cover the bad sections where the losses didn’t. All of this translates to some bad news for the Hops this week. The Hops can win the blowouts. In other words, when the Hops are on, no one can beat them. But, the Hops have trouble winning the close ones. And, in the playoffs, the close ones are far more common than the blowouts. The good news, the Hops are rarely blown out. And they are in it with the close ones. The difference from a .500 record and a winning record? Win the close ones.
Now for the games this last week:
The valve that held the Hops in check last week burst wide open and flooded the Canadians with runs, hits and especially, no errors. Blaze Alexander was the MVP for the first half of the game scoring two runs and earning four RBIs with a double and a homer. AJ Vukovich was the second half MVP matching Blaze with a double and a homer of his own with three RBIs.
While his teammates at the plate did their best to flood Vancouver, Blake Walston did his best to drown them in sliders, fastballs and anything else he could send. After all of the pent up frustration, I am sure everyone felt good after this one. Hillsboro Leads 1-0.
Here, doubt was removed early. 7-0 after two innings held little more suspense. Everyone in the starting lineup got a hit. Including Ronny Simon who collected four of them for almost a complete set: one home run, one double and two singles. All he needed was one triple and Ronny would have the second cycle in Hops history. Close, but not bad for only being with the team for ten days. Hillsboro leads 2-0.
This one was Vancouver’s turn. It looked like it was going to be a blow out but this time by the Canadians. The Hops entered the eighth inning down by 8-2. Then, three runs in the eighth made it 8-5. When they scored another in the ninth and made it a two run ball game with runners at the corners, it looked even better. The tying run was on first and the winning walk-off was at the plate. And, there was only one out. Moments later, second baseman Tanner Morris scooped up a grounder, stepped on the second base bag and threw to first for an inning ending double play. Poof. Hillsboro leads 2-1.
The Hops had to work for what Vancouver just powered their way through to get. The Canadians totaled twelve hits, three doubles and three home runs. The Hops came away with eight hits and one double. Both teams scored their runs in bunches. Nine men to the plate, eight men (twice). Seven men. With all of the scoring at the beginning and the end, the middle three innings were like the eye of the hurricane.
Zac Cook led off with a home run in the top of the ninth that became the difference in the final score. In the Hops ninth, they struck out three times. Series tied 2-2.
It was the night of Home Runs. Tristin English sent one to the deepest part of the field and bounced it off the scoreboard. Blaze Alexander sent one so deep, they had to send a team out to look for it. It sailed over the berm behind left and ended up in a softball field. Estimated 450 feet. Then Tristin hit his second homer, ten feet to the right of the first one. Jorge Barrosa started it all. In the bottom of the first, Jorge led off with his homer to give the Hops their first lead,
Justin Vernia lasted 98 pitches over six innings for the win. The Hops needed as many innings as he could give them for the “Bullpen Day” tomorrow. Justin didn’t disappoint. Hillsboro leads 3-2.
Ever have a day that starts so bad that you spend the rest of the day trying to catch up? That is what this game was like. Vancouver scored six runs in the second inning. Hillsboro scored two in the fifth. Vancouver added two more with one in the sixth and seventh. Hillsboro scored two… you get the idea.
Highlights on the individual level led by Cam Coursey and his third triple in a week. Before this, the team lead for the season was three. Cam not only tied that in just a few days but took the lead with a previous triple earlier in the season. Tristin English hit his 13th double of the season.
The Season So Far…
Week 17: Batting:
The biggest change is the promotion of Andy Yerzy. With Eduardo Diaz getting his promotion earlier, the Hops have lost their two power hitters. But, no worries, the Hops have a few that have already taken their place. These are for the active leaders.
Blaze Alexander still leads in the most categories (6): games (82), AB (304), runs (51), hits (69), walks (39) and total bases (118).
Jorge Barrosa ranks next. He leads in three categories: average (over 20 AB with .269), double (16), he gained OPS (.783), but lost triples (3).
Cam Coursey took the triples (4) away from Barrosa this week by hitting three of his four.
Tristin English bypassed the promoted Andy Yerzy in RBI (43).
Week 17: Pitching:
Justin Vernia won his third game of the season leaving behind several with two wins.
Gerald Ogando leads in ERA (.216).
Justin Vernia also leads in strikeouts (47).
Transactions for week 17:
8/24 DH Andy Yerzy promoted to the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles
It has been a long road for Andy but he finally made it to the AA level after four years. Though that is to be expected when you start your pro career out of high school. Andy “recently turned 23” Yerzy spent most of those years with the Hops: 2018, 2019 and now 2021. Remember, there was no 2020 due to Covid-19. Along the way, Andy has set career records with the Hops in almost every category.
8/24 C Luvin Valbuena promoted to the Hillsboro Hops from ACL Dbacks
Luvin was with the team earlier, appearing in four games. Mostly a singles hitter, he has only seven doubles in his career and no triples or homers in 102 games. His BB to SO ratio is around 1:4.
8/27 1B Spencer Brickhouse on the 7-day injured list
Spencer last played on 8/26 against the Vancouver Canadians. He went to the plate four times. He walked once and struck out three times. No official word as to the injury itself.
8/30 LHP Kyle Backhus promoted to the Hillsboro Hops from Visalia Rawhide
Kyle was not drafted out of the Sam Houston Bearkats. Arizona did sign him up as a free agent. He started his pro career with the Visalia Rawhide and appeared in five games – all starts. He came away with a 2-0 record. In 16.2 innings, he gave up eleven runs but only seven of them were earned giving him a 3.78 ERA. He struck out 15 batters and only walked seven.
With the Hops needing a starting pitcher, Kyle may fill that need. That would allow the team to stay away from bullpen days unless needed.
Looking Forward to Week 18
This week greets the Eugene Emeralds to Ron Tonkin Field. This is their last visit of three this season and this is also the last home stand for the Hops. After this, the Hops will finish the season on the road. However, remember that the final week against the Vancouver Canadians will be played at the Tonk.
Being twelve games behind the Emeralds in the standings, this meeting won’t carry the weight of the previous meetings. Four of the five meetings so far have all been 3-3 splits. (The one we won’t talk about was the sweep.) Chances are, the sixth and last meeting could turnout the same. These two teams play each other tough making this a true rivalry.
While the Hops don’t have a hope of catching the Emeralds, the Hops still have a chance to put a damper on the Ems season. While Eugene is a half game behind Everett for the best record in the league, likewise, Spokane is a half game behind Eugene. Only the top two teams will go to the playoffs making this a very tight race. If the Hops go 4-2 or 5-1, it could put a real damper on the team (that swept the Hops).
Not only can the Hops affect the race to the playoffs, Hillsboro is only a game and a half behind Vancouver and easily within reach of fourth place. Plus, remember that Tri City is only three and a half games behind the Hops and can still take fifth place from them.
Hillsboro Hops Team Up With Intel for STEM Education
While you’ve been watching the Hops strike out opposing batters, you have also been watching donations grow for STEM education. Therefore, every strikeout a Hops’ pitcher throws, Intel donates $10. As of Friday’s game, the Hops have totaled 982 strikeouts (good for fourth place in the league). With 20 games left to play and they average just under ten strikeouts per game, it should add another estimated 200 strikeouts for a guestimate of 1182 strikeouts this year.
That comes to $$11,820 donated to STEM Education. However, the final number doesn’t really matter. Meanwhile, Intel has decided to round up the figure to… a whopping $50,000!!! In other words, that’s one mighty big round up.
“We are so proud to partner with Intel for the Strike Outs for STEM promotion”, said Hillsboro Hops President KL Wombacher. “They are a tremendous community asset that is extremely generous with their community support. We can’t thank Intel enough for their partnership and generous donation to the Hillsboro Schools Foundation.”
The donation will benefit the Hillsboro Schools Foundation (HSF):
“HSF’s Elementary School program ‘Imagina tu Adventure’ will bring bilingual, bicultural career exploration kits and programs to all kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms,” said Aron Carleson, HSF Executive Director. “Intel’s contribution assures we can begin with STEM career education for all students. We are thankful for Intel’s strong community support.”
“We’re proud of our ongoing partnership with the Hillsboro Hops Strikeouts for STEM program and the Hillsboro Schools Foundation to inspire the future generation of STEM professionals,” said Courtney Martin, Intel Oregon Public Affairs Director. “This year’s program will support students and educators through the Hillsboro School’s Foundation Imagina tu Aventura program, providing bicultural career exploration tools about careers and higher education.”
Intel deserves one big “Thank you”. That donation is like hitting one out of the park over the Blue Monster in center field.
…Announced that they will finish the season using Ron Tonkin Field as their “home” field.
“As we all know, 2021 has been challenging for everyone both personally and professionally, however, we have been fortunate to be able to start and now finish our season in Hillsboro,” Canadians President Andy Dunn said. “The safety for our players, staff and fans remains our number one concern. Coupled with the fact that our season will conclude in less than 30 days, we have made the tough decision to finish the 2021 season in Oregon.”
This means that the last week of the season for the Hops, originally planned to be on the road, will be at home with Vancouver hosting them. In other words, this is your best chance to see the Hops play “on the road” and never leave Hillsboro. So, get yourself a ticket and tell your friends that you followed the team on one of their “road trips”.
The Canadians President Andy Dunn:
“Our staff have already begun the process of planning and developing what will be an exciting and memorable return for baseball and The Canadians to Vancouver and Nat Bailey Stadium beginning in April for our 2022 full season,” Dunn continued. “We look forward to welcoming each and every one of our fans back home to The Nat in 2022.”
Firstly, if you are interested in getting tickets to the Vancouver games, you can call this number: (604) 872-5232. Or, secondly, go to this website: CanadiansBaseball.com. https://www.milb.com/vancouver