Hillsboro Hops Smashed Ems in Home Run Derby 10-6
Hillsboro Hops smashed the Ems better than the Ems smashed the Hops in a home run contest masquerading as a game. The Hops’ Eduardo Diaz, Blaze Alexander and Cam Coursey out-slugged the Ems’ Armani Smith and Sean Roby. The Eugene Emeralds go down 10-6.
Bats Break Out Big Time
The Hops and Emeralds have been fighting very close games lately. The last seven games between these two have all been decided by just one run. One, with just a 2-1 score. So, when the bats erupted for five homers, one triple and six doubles, it was just like letting the kids run amok in the candy store. Once they tasted one extra base hit, the next kid wanted to taste a bigger one.
The victims tonight were not so much the losing team as much as the pitchers from both sides. They suffered the twelve extra base hits with eight walks, 24 hits total, five wild pitches, one error and two passed balls. And don’t forget 16 runs crossing the plate.
Starting Normal, Ending Wild
The start of the game was typical for what normally occurs between these two teams. Someone scores early. The other team either matches it quickly or spends the rest of the game trying to catch up. Meanwhile, the pitchers from both sides lock down the plate making a hit as rare as gold. Tonight, the value of the hit was closer to the price of silver as the Hillsboro Hops smashed (with the help of the Ems) the commodity market on home runs.
The air was filled with enough excitement that home runs came from everywhere. Sean Roby (Ems) hit his 13th four-bagger of the year. Eduardo Diaz (Hops) hit his team-leading twelfth of the season. Both Armani Smith (Ems) and Blaze Alexander (Hops) hit their sixth homer of the season. Sharing the wealth, Cam Coursey (Hops) hit his first deep shot of the season. Like I said, everyone was getting in on the action.
Blaze Alexander, Tyler Fitzgerald Shine on Defense
While the Hillsboro Hops smashed and the Eugene Emeralds launched homers all night, there was still defense being played. None played it better than Blaze Alexander (Hops) tonight. A couple of times, he reached grounders that, on other nights, had a chance of getting past him. Off-balance, Blaze fired missiles to first for the outs. One time, he reached a grounder so deep, the base runner was expected to beat it out for an infield hit. Instead, Blaze turned and fired the throw while his body was still sliding towards third base. The glove and release was so quick, the throw had the time to bounce twice before beating the runner to the bag,
Equally impressive was Tyler Fitzgerald for the Ems. Playing second base, he vacuumed grounders easily and would rise and throw in the same motion. His best move was the night before (though he made more tonight) when he slid across the grass turf off shallow right and with a dancer’s move, rose up in a twisting motion that lent itself to the throw that looked like one smooth motion from sliding to throwing.
The Mound Hit Hard
Every pitcher tonight suffered a run, a walk and a hit given up. To ease the suffering, the pitchers also threw 16 strikeouts. The bugaboo, however, was the pitch count. Each pitcher averaged close to 20 pitches per inning. Part of the reason was foul balls. Tonight, 19 times a batter faced their pitcher with two strikes and fouled off the next pitch for another chance to swing. 17 times, the batter reached three balls in the pitch count. Eight of those would get a free pass to first base.
But, after all of the dust settled, the Hops owned the scoreboard for their sixth win in a row. Hillsboro (along with Spokane) are the hottest teams in the High A West league at 7-3 in their last ten games. In that time, Spokane and Hillsboro have gained three games on first place Everett, two games on second place Eugene, three games on fifth place Vancouver and four games on sixth place Tri City.
The win helped the Hillsboro Hops (41-44) gain on Everett and their 12.5 game lead on them. With the loss, the Eugene Emeralds (49-37) maintain their five games back of the top but now are only six and a half games ahead of Spokane. Both teams meet for game#3 Thursday night. Hillsboro currently leads the six-game series 2-0.
If you can’t attend the game, you can watch it on MiLB,tv, listen to it on 620 AM radio or follow me on Twitter for half inning updates throughout the game. You can find my Twitter handle below.