The game remained empty of runs until the Hillsboro Hops scored in the eighth. Kevin Watson, Jr. and LT Tolbert smacked the only Hops extra base hits to lead off the inning. First, Watson tripled to right field and waited at third. The newest Hop did not have long to wait. LT Tolbert came up next and swatted a double to left and Watson trotted home for the game’s first score. But, it was not enough. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes tied it in the ninth and won it in extra innings 3-1 with a two-run eleventh that the Hops could not answer.
Up until that point, it was a pitcher’s duel of the stingiest order. Both teams reached base in plentiful abundance. The Hops managed only one run on eight hits. The Volcanoes smacked twelve hits but only produced three runs. Again, since so few runners crossed the plate, where were the runners going to if not home?
28 Strike Outs
There were several hurdles for the runners to sneak past. One was strikeouts. It is hard to advance the runner if you can’t put the ball in play. S-K swung for 15 K’s in the game. The Hops didn’t do much better as they either swung and missed or watched the ball go by for 13 strike outs of their own. In total, 28 K’s were issued Saturday night.
Equally frustrating was 25 men stranded on base. The dreaded LOB was almost as big a hurdle as the K. 13 were visiting Volcanoes. Twelve were the recently returning home Hops. There are only two reasons why batters can be made to look so ineffectual.
One method is a strong defense in the field. The game featured only one error which allowed S-K’s Dalton Combs to stretch his single into a double and later score the insurance run in the eleventh. Throw in four passed balls and you would think a game that featured 20 hits would have a lot more runs.
Another method is strong pitching meaning control. However, tonight I counted ten different cases where control was not in control. Three walks were issued. Another three batters hit by pitches. Two wild pitches meaning anybody on base gets a chance to advance to the next base twice. Two steals. OK, steals are not as bad as a wild pitch or a hit batter but you ask any pitcher or catcher and he does not like to have a base stolen from him. He takes it personal.
Case: Missing Runs
Add up all of these reasons why the score should be much higher than it was and is there an answer? Where did the runs go? The answer is here if you look closely. It is not as obvious as a walk-off homer in extra innings. It was not a no hitter or perfect game by any means. Something else grabbed the win but it was present on both sides of the ball.
This was not the case of one team being obviously better than the other, even if for one night. Tonight, both teams were very close reflections of each other. Not that much separated them from each other. Only the thin slice of a mirror between.
What made this game close is what made the scoring so low. One double play cuts two base runners down. One runner caught stealing removes another. Four fielder’s choices removes the lead runner for no gain but adds four more outs. Add to that the 28 strike outs and 25 runners left on base and you have 60 reasons why the score was so low. It was small ball at its most fundamental. In an age of launch angles and bat speeds, the old ways of winning came to the fore: Hustle.
Welcome Kevin Watson
Kevin Watson entered his first Hops game on 8/30 in Boise as a defensive replacement. Finally, tonight was his first chance to swing a bat for his new team. Also, it was his home debut. Kevin went 1 for 4 but tripled and scored the Hops only run. The young man is also local. Graduating from Beaverton High School in 2017, he was quickly drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round. This is his second year as a professional.
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