Week 14: Four Game Winning Streak
Week 14 was not a week to follow predictions. After the recent surge, I hoped for another winning week to help climb up the league ladder. What did we get? Two losses to open the series. Now, my hope turned to not getting swept. Mission accomplished in game#3. Now, I hoped for at least a split. Again, goal reached in game#5. Could we win game#6 and pull a win out of the series? Yep, the Hops went on a four game winning streak and walked away winners.
If you looked up on the scoreboard, you would see a sea of zeroes except for two numbers that you would have to hunt around to find. Vancouver’s “5” in the fifth and Hillsboro’s “2” in the eighth. It was surprising to see that seven runs were actually scored among the floating ovals. Especially since only two other runners even reached third base. Another two reached no further than second.
The top five Hops in the batting order hit safely once. All were singles. The only time they had two or more singles in one inning were the three in the eighth. Jorge Barrosa, Eduardo Diaz, Andy Yerzy and Blaze Alexander teamed up with three singles and an error to score their two runs.
The Hops started out with an Eduardo Diaz’ two-run homer in the first inning. No one expected those would be the last Hops runs scored. Vancouver quickly tied the game with a Luis De Los Santos triple in the first and a Davis Schneider homer in the second.
Then the scoreboard had to wait until the seventh inning before it saw anything more. Marcos Tineo, making his 2021 Hops debut (He had been a Hop in 2019), sparkled after settling down and only allowed one more run in the game. However, that would be one more than the Canadians would allow in that same time frame. Will Robertson singled and moved to third. An unexpected gift, a wild pitch from Tineo, gifted him a free ride to score the go ahead run.
Orelvis Martinez hit a two-out home run in the first inning to give the Vancouver Canadians their first and only lead of the night. The rest of the game belonged to the Hillsboro bats (five runs) and a combination of five pitchers. Kyler Stout started but it was Josh McMinn (W, 1-1) that got the win by starting the shut-out the rest of the way. Kai-Wei Lin (H, 3), Nick Snyder (H, 6) and Wesley Rodriguez allowed just two hits among them.
Tristin English’s home run in the second quickly tied the game. Then the Hops continued to hit for the cycle — as a team. Nick Dalesandro doubled. Danny Oriente tripled. Leodany Perez (twice), AJ Vukovich and Oriente singled. Canadians lead the series 2-1.
The Hops spent the first half of the game watching the Vancouver Canadians build a 3-0 lead with two home runs and a man on base. Hillsboro did them better. The second half was their turn. They not only hit two home runs (by Blaze Alexander and Tristin English) but they added a triple from Leodany Perez for five runs. Blake Walston improved his record to 2-1. Series tied 2-2.
Brandon Pfaadt pitched another hot game. This time spreading 98 pitches over seven innings for two hits and one run. Along the way, he peppered the Canadians bats with eleven strikeouts.
Also, on a night where batting averages plummeted for the most part, Danny Oriente went 3 for 3. He along with Roman Ruiz were the only batters to have more than one hit. Hops lead series 3-2.
The Hops jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and stayed around two runs ahead throughout the game. Curiously, Jorge Barrosa and Eduardo Diaz scored six of the seven runs by scoring together. Andy Yerzy knocked home five of the seven runs. Twice, all three teamed up together. Hops win series 4-2
Week 14: Looking Back at the Plate:
As a team, in most categories, the totals stayed pretty close to the same: At Bats (208-206), hits (54-53), doubles (6-7), home runs (5-4) and total bases (77-79). The team is now maintaining their higher level of performance at the plate and making it look average. Good news is that for the first time in three weeks, the Hops actually hit a triple. In fact, two batters hit a triple: Danny Oriente and Leodany Perez.
However, two categories dropped significantly: runs (34-23) and RBIs (30-19). Why? Team batting averages were about the same (.259-.257). The only trends I could see was in the base running and more double plays. Last game alone featured three DPs.
Getting caught stealing or too far off base also led to less runners staying on base. The Hops used to lead all minor leagues in stolen bases. They still are the second best in the country but the fact that someone caught up to them after leading by more than 20 stolen bases is telling. Some of the blame can be traced to the changing of the rules. MiLB took away the rule where pitchers had to step off before throwing to first or any base. This had allowed base runners to take a bigger lead before stealing and no one took advantage of that better than the Hops.
When that changed, the Hops base stealing slowed down as they had lost their advantage. As the Hops base runners adjusted to the return of the quicker pick off move, more runners were picked off base. However, the other High A teams also have to deal with the same rule change. Also telling is the fact that the team who took over the minor leagues lead in stolen bases is from the low A levels where they never had to deal with that earlier rule to begin with.
Overall, too many times, I saw where the Hops lost a runner only to be followed by another hit. So how did the Hops keep winning if they were scoring less? For that we go to the next section…
Week 14: Looking Back at the Mound:
Here is the answer. While the Hops’ batters were scoring twelve less runs last week, the Hops’ pitchers were allowing eight less runs. The ERA improved from 3.90 to 3.11, which now reduces the run differential to only four runs over the week. Less than one run per game can easily be explained by the fact of the variance that can occur with different scoring totals. The Hops lost their first two games by an average of 2.0 runs per game. They won the next four by an average of 2.5 runs per game.
This last week, the pitching staff improved their ERA more than their strike totals decreased (1.00-0.94). Even so if the game scoring was high for a pitcher’s duel (Hops 3.83 runs per game vs Canadians 2.83 runs per game). The pitcher’s kept the scoring low enough so that their batters didn’t need to score a bunch of runs to win the game.
Which brings us to the fact that a team can’t win games unless their pitchers can win games. This week featured four Hops winners: Justin Vernia, Josh McMinn, Blake Walston and Brandon Pfaadt. Brandon’s performance in game#6 was one of the highlights for the week. He pitched seven innings and allowed only one run for a 1.57 ERA. Toss in eleven strikeouts and the batters were begging for him to be relieved. They wouldn’t get their wish until the eighth inning. What happened then? Relievers Denson Hull and Mailon Arroyo took one inning each and shut them down to no runs on just one hit.
Week 14: Strength in Relief
But, looking at ERAs a little more closely tells us something about where the Hops’ strength may lay on the mound. While the starting pitchers deserve every bit of credit they receive, their overall ERA between the six starts is only a 4.41 ERA. More than what the Canadians average as a team.
For the record, starting pitchers averaged pitching 4.1 innings per game. The last 4.2 innings belong to the relievers and closers. While the starters averaged a 4.41 ERA, the last half averaged only a 0.31 ERA. Of the ten non-starting pitchers from the last week, eight of the ten did not allow one run for the whole week. The Hops are winning because the other team isn’t scoring in the last half of the game while the Hops’ batters are scoring during the whole game.
So, it is no surprise that the ten relievers also amassed seven holds and two saves. Among them are Nick Snyder picking up his team leading 7th hold and Yaramil Hiraldo who added his team leading 6th save.
On to strikeouts. The top K/IP ratio belongs to reliever Liu Fuenmayor who averaged 3.00 strikeouts per inning. Can’t get any better than that. Liu struck out four batters in 1.1 innings. The second best belongs to a starter which is unusual since they pitch more innings than relievers. But, it is no surprise that the starter would be Brandon Pfaadt who struck out eleven batters over seven innings for a 1.57 ratio.
Week 14: The Season So Far
There were a few changes this week. Mostly because of slumps and rising stars. Hops stalwart Blaze Alexander had a bit of a down week and lost his lead in hits to Axel Andueza who rose up to top him by one hit (48-49). Otherwise, Blaze is maintaining his team lead in the other categories: games (60), at bats (229), runs (38), walks (33) and doubles (11).
Spencer Brickhouse had the other slump. He went from leading or being tied in three different categories to leading in none. Spencer lost his lead in OPS (more than 10 games) to Andy Yerzy (.746-.783), total bases to Eduardo Diaz (76-81). He also lost his tie in home runs with Eduardo (9 to 10).
Newcomer Danny Oriente is still leading the team in batting average (.423) and OPS (1.055). Nick Dalesandro keeps his lead for batting average (.259) with more than ten games despite his slump this week. Tristin English still has the lead in RBIs (29) though Andy Yerzy (28) is hot on his trail.
Brandon Pfaadt has joined Slade Cecconi (60-day injured list) and Ryne Nelson (with AA Amaraillo) with the lead in wins (4). Brandon should have the lead all to himself in the next week or two. Nick Snyder picked up his team leading hold (6) while Yaramil Hiraldo continues to lead in saves (7).
Liu Fuenmayor leads all relievers in ERA with 2.08 while Brandon Pfaadt has the lead with starters (2.82 ERA). Brandon is also climbing up the ladder with 61 strikeouts. He is only two behind Slade Cecconi (63) on the current list.
Week 14 Transactions
The week was busier than normal. In total, there were ten different changes to look over. In the good news departments, Justin Lewis joined a bunch of other Hops in being promoted to the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles. At the moment, I count at least 18 former Hops out of the 31 men on the roster. Twelve from this year alone.
In the sad news department, the club said goodbye to Reece Hampton who was released this week. His enthusiasm and effort will be missed.
We also saw five new Hops join the team including two returnees. Throw in the injured list and one pass-through and you have the entire week in a nutshell.
8/3 RHP Gerald Ogando assigned to the Hops from the Visalia Rawhide
From Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic, Ogando spent 2017 and 2018 in the DSL league. In 2019, he shared swings with the DSL and AZL. Jumping to 2021, Ogando made another step starting off with the Low A Visalia Rawhide. Now, he finds himself with the High A Hops after four plus years.
His career numbers are in 42 games (18 starts): 6-9 win/loss, 3.84 ERA, 105 Ks in 122 IP.
8/3 RHP Justin Lewis promoted to the Amarillo Sod Poodles
Drafted in 2018 (round 12, 369 overall) out of the University of Kentucky, Justin has spent his entire pro career with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. This year, his fourth under contract, was the first time he wore a Hops uniform.
While with the Hops, Lewis could be counted on to lock down the opponents’ bats with a 2.40 ERA in nine games. He struck out eleven batters in 15 innings and held them to a .192 average.
8/3 3B AJ Vukovich promoted to the Hops from the Visalia Rawhide.
(A)aron (J)effrey was drafted in 2020 (round 4, 119 overall) out of East Troy (WI) High School. Made his pro debut this year with the Visalia Rawhide. In his first 62 games with the Low A franchise, AJ batted .259 with ten home runs, 42 runs and 42 RBIs.
With Visalia, AJ had more hits than games played. With ten homers, AJ averaged a home run every sixth game. His 26 extra base hits resulted in at least a double every two and a half games.
8/3 RHP Jared Liebelt promoted from Visalia Rawhide to Hillsboro Hops
Liebelt was drafted in 2019 (round 20, 602 overall) out of Mississippi State. He made his pro debut with Missoula Osprey the same year. After skipping 2020, Jared started with the Visalia Rawhide.
With the Rawhide, Jared pitched four innings in five games, allowed 8 runs on 8 hits, 3 BB and 5 Ks. All appearances were in relief.
8/3 RHP Marcus Tineo assigned to the Hillsboro Hops from the Visalia Rawhide.
Hops fans remember Tineo from his stint with Hillsboro in 2019. From San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. Started 2021 with Visalia. Last time with the Hops, went 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA. Appeared in 15 games, starting 8. Struck out 66 batters in 66.2 innings. Walked only 19.
Played 16 games with the Rawhide, starting two. Struck out 71 in 50 innings. Walked only 18. 5.51 ERA.
8/5 OF Reece Hampton released by the Hillsboro Hops
Reece was leading the Hops in triples (3) when he was released. He had power (6 doubles, 4 homers) and speed (16 stolen bases). But, he also needed the average (.193) as his power wasn’t on the most powerful levels.
Drafted in 2018 by the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed him as a free agent and assigned him to the Hops in May of this year. While here, Hampton stood at the plate 122 times. 23 of those, he crossed the plate. 26 hits and 20 walks got him on base.
8/5 SS Alexander Hernandez promoted to the Hillsboro Hops
Hernandez started the season with the Hops. He left for a trip to Visalia after nine games. While in Visalia, Alexander worked on his game and showed significant strides, improving in several categories. He upped his batting average from .121 to .295. In playing twice the games than in Hillsboro, he more than doubled some key features. Runs scored tripled. Hits more than quadrupled. Doubles quadrupled. Eight times the walks. He’s baaack.
8/5 RHP Slade Cecconi transferred from 7-day disabled list to 60-day list.
With Slade being out at least until Oct 2nd, he is unlikely to make it back before the season ends on September 19th.
8/6 RHP Jared Liebelt released by the Hillsboro Hops
Liebelt didn’t get much time in Hillsboro to find out where the good restaurants are. He was here for three days.
8/6 RHP Shumpei Yoshikawa assigned to the Hillsboro Hops from AAA Reno Aces
Shumpei spent his American pro debut with Visalia. In 2021, he started out the season with the Hops and has been hopping around ever since. Working his way up and down between High A Hillsboro, AA Amarillo and AAA Reno. Due in part to the injury list. He has yet to pitch for the Hops as he went immediately on the injury list after being assigned to the Hops.
Mostly a starting pitcher, Yoshikawa has a career 4.30 ERA and has struck out 124 batters in only 104 innings. In his short 2021 so far. He has pitched one game each for Amarillo and Reno in a relief role.
Next week: week#15 with the Eugene Emeralds (8/10-8-15)
The Ems return to Ron Tonkin Field as the Hops have exhausted their road trip visits to the green city for the year. The fourth place Hops sit 9.5 games below the Emeralds who are in second place. That’s a bit far to reach in one week but any chance to gain on a team above the Hops is, for them, a welcome opportunity.
In the meantime, Spokane sits only two games above the Hops. Another winning week could erase that gap and put the Hops into a tie for third. Or a losing week could also put the Hops in reach of Vancouver who are two and a half games behind the Hops in fifth place.
Also next week, look for a chance for Brandon Pfaadt to take the lead in win totals all to himself with a win. The Hillsboro bats should wake up a bit as the Hops average 4.25 runs per game against the Ems. But, watch out for a slight decrease on the mound as the Ems bats average 4.95 runs per game. Either way, and the second meeting sweep being an anomaly, look for close and tight games between these two. I’m expecting a 3-3 split by the end of the series. If the Hops can win the series 4-2, then give them a chance to take second place from the Ems before the end of the season.
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