Eduardo Diaz, Hillsboro Hops Overpowers Ems, 8-5
Eduardo Diaz arrived into the season with impressive home run power. Then it went away for a while. Lately, there have been hints that it may be coming back. Tonight, it came back as the Hillsboro Hops easily overpowered the Eugene Emeralds 8-5.
Power From Everywhere
At first, it seemed to be a tease. After Eugene scored the first run in the first inning with a Will Wilson single and two wild pitches by Taylor Widener, the Hops teased with four runs of their own. This is not to say that the run scoring itself was the tease. It was more indicative of apprehension. In other words, “What comes next?” The Hops have shown offense recently but still ended up giving the game away allowing a big inning to the other team.
To prove the point, the Ems scored three more runs in the very next inning to tie the game. At this point, it would have been very easy to cut expectations and prepare yourself for the Emeralds to take command. I’m sure several did. But, they would be surprised. Luckily for them, no one left the game early to beat the parking lot crowd and rush home in the second inning. They would have missed the old Hops coming back.
To answer Eugene’s three runs in the top of the second, the Hops came back with two of their own to take the lead back. Cam Coursey led off with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch and passed ball by the Ems battery of pitcher Kai-Wei Teng and catcher Ricardo Genoves. Also, Jorge Barrosa took first after being hit by a Teng pitch and scored on Tristin English’s RBI single.
Eduardo Diaz’ Scores Go Ahead Run
But, would it hold up? The quick answer was yes. After holding the Ems scoreless in the top of the third, the Hops went right back to the assembly line and cranked out two more runs. Eduardo Diaz, Nick Dalesandro and Reece Hampton led off the bottom of the third with consecutive singles. The latter by Hampton, a 2-run job scoring Diaz and Dalesandro. More telling to the crowd, Dalesandro scored on Hampton’s single — all the way from first. There was no way that Dalesandro could have scored from a line drive to right but he did.
It was very reminiscent of Dalesandro’s inside the park home run not that long ago where he crossed home plate after racing around the bases with fists pumping high in the air. This time, without the elevation of arms pumping imaginary iron, with just as much hustle, grit and determination. If nothing else, it told the crowd that if they were going to lose this game, they were going to go down fighting. The crowd loved it.
The score reached 8-4 and the pitching from both sides took over. Kai-Wei had been chased when he gave up the Hops fifth and sixth runs in the second. Jasier Herrera came on in relief but didn’t start out much better. After the Hops reached eight runs on the scoreboard, Herrera settled in and kept the Hops scoreless for two more innings. Solomon Bates finished off the Hops’ last three innings at the plate, retiring the last eight batters he faced.
Taylor Widener, Visiting Major League Experience
It was a similar story for the Hops’ Taylor Widener. Down from the major league club on an injury rehab assignment, Widener’s stay is normally a short test before returning to Arizona. But after two innings, it didn’t look like Taylor was ready to go anywhere. In the first, Ems’ Will Wilson singled, stole second and scored with two wild pitches by Widener.
In the second, Ricardo Genoves patiently took a one-out walk to first. It was followed by four consecutive hits, the last one a double by Wilson. Suddenly, the game was tied right after the Hops went ahead 4-1. But, Widener settled down and kept the Ems scoreless for two more innings.
Justin Vernia (W, 1-2) relieved the Hops’ starter and went four innings of one-run, four-hit relief to earn the win. Yaramil Hiraldo (S, 1) , returning from the injury list, closed out the game, retiring the Ems’ final three chances in order.
But, the biggest firework on the Eve of the Fourth of July was Eduardo Diaz’ first inning homer. Spencer Brickhouse had already walked and scored on Andy Yerzy’s RBI single to tie the game. That left Tristin English and Yerzy on base and wanting to come home. Eduardo Diaz took care of that with his three-run blast to clear the bases and take the lead. The Em’s would soon tie it back up again but they would never grab the lead again. Not after that homer.
It is common for a “visiting” major leaguer to provide inspiration when on a short rehab visit. He represents someone who made it to a place all the Hops are aspiring to reach. I wondered at first if that was the case for the Hops’ explosion? Re-energizing their dream of making it one day. After the game, I also wondered if the reverse was true. Did seeing the effort, energy and hustle of his young teammates also inspire Widener to buckle down and take back control?
Whether or not that’s true or helped in either direction, I am sure that it didn’t hurt.
The loss flip-flopped the Eugene Emeralds (33-19) with Everett at the top of the standings. The Ems are now a half game behind the Aquasoxs. The win gained a half game for the Hops due to the top two teams trading places. The Hops are now twelve games back of the top.
Both teams will meet again for the sixth and final game of this series on Sunday night. Yes, that is a Sunday night due to it being the Fourth of July. Fireworks will follow. The Hops have a chance to split the series after going down 3-0 to the Ems if they win Sunday night. The game is sold out but you can watch the game on MiLB.tv, listen on 620 AM radio or follow me on Twitter for half inning updates. My Twitter handle is below.
In the meantime, check out some of my other musings right here on Minor League Sports Report.