Hops' hot streak cools off
A three-game winning streak gives way to a three-game losing skid as Hillsboro's offense fizzles against Everett
A sign of better things to come or regression toward the mean?
Eight games into the second half of the season, its difficult to tell with the Hops. Hillsboro kicked off its second-half do-over with some of its best and most consistent play of the season.
The Hops took two of three games from Salem-Keizer on the road last week and then the first two contests in a five-game series against Everett that concluded on Tuesday. Significantly, those teams led the South and North divisions of the Northwest League over the first half of the season with identical 23-15 records. (The Hops meanwhile, went 11-27 through 38 games.)
Among the highlights in that run were a four-RBI outing by George Roberts in a 9-6 win against the Volcanoes on July 23 and a walk-off RBI single by Yogey Perez-Ramos in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 4-3 victory to open the Everett series last Friday.
But Hillsboro wrapped up the series with a trio of 6-0 losses to the AquaSox, managing just eight hits across the three games. The losses dropped the Hops to 15-31 overall and 4-4 in the South division, tied with Boise and Salem-Keizer and one game back of Eugene.
Its just one of those things where we got hot for a couple games and beat guys, and now, you know, maybe their guys are getting hot and they just beat us, said J.R. Bradley, who came on in relief to pitch a scoreless eighth inning for the Hops on Tuesday. I dont think its anything to be worried about.
As they have been wont to do at times this season, the Hops fell victim to the big inning on Tuesday at Hillsboro Ballpark. They coughed up six runs in the fourth inning of an otherwise scoreless ballgame and never threatened to make a dent in Everetts lead.
The AquaSox scored their first three runs on an RBI single by Justin Seager and a two-RBI single courtesy of Christian Carmichael. Three batters later, Phillips Castillo accounted for the final three runs of the game, adding insult to injury by smashing a ball into the family berm in left field for a three-run homer.
The Hops did not get their first hit of the night until the seventh inning, when Perez-Ramos finally broke up Everett starter Lars Huijers no-hitter. Huijer threw eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball to pick up his seventh win of the season.
Ryan Kinsella accounted for the Hops other hit of the night, against reliever Tyler Wright, with a leadoff single in the ninth, but Hillsboro could not muster any more offense with which to rally.
I think it was just our bats, second baseman Randy McCurry said. Our bats havent really came around yet. Hittings kind of contagious, it seems like with this team. If one persons hitting, then everybody does, but then if nobodys hitting, then it just seems like all the time that nobody does.
For Hillsboro, Ross Gerdeman went seven innings on the mound, yielding five hits and all six runs. He also walked two and struck out six. Bradley gave up just one hit in his outing, as did Daniel Gibson in the scoreless ninth.
After recording 50 hits and 24 runs through the first five games of the second half, clearly Hillsboro struggled at the plate during the Everett skid. Not only did the team miss its offense during the final three games against the AquaSox, but also the prescence of outfielder Zach Esquerra.
Esquerra has been one of the Hops biggest weapons at the plate all season. As of Tuesday, he led the team in RBIs (26) and home runs (five), was second in hits (45) and runs (18), and third in batting average (.276). But he missed the final three games of the AquaSox series because of a strained obliques muscle on his left side. In the first five games of the second half, Esquerra was pretty consistent in terms of his batting average, going 6-for-22 (.273) for three runs and one RBI.
Esquerra said he injured the muscle during batting practice on Sunday, when he felt some tightness on that left side develop into soreness.
Now, its hard to turn and twist, but hopefully Ill be good Aug. 8, Esquerra said, mentioning when he hopes to return to the lineup.
Between now and then, Esquerra is resting and receiving treatment. Though he was one of four Hops players named to the South division squad for the Northwest League All-Star Game (see story on page A20), he will not make an appearance in the contest, slated for Tuesday in Everett, Wash.
Instead, he will return back to Hillsboro from Vancouver, B.C., after Hillsboro wraps up a five-game stint against the Canadians on Sunday. Overall though, he seemed quite logical about missing the all-star game.
I think the hard part was actually making it, and so I think I was happy that I made the team, Esquerra said. I dont think you can do anything at the all-star game thats going to make headlines. To not go sucks, but Id rather be healthy.
As for his teammates, they have been trying to get back on track in a five-game series against the Canadians that kicked off on Wednesday and might help establish whether the Hops are going to turn the tables on a tough first half or resemble their old selves.
It shows that we can win, Bradley said about the Hops recent winning run. A lot of guys, its their first year, so theyre going to have really good days and theyre going to have bad days with it. So its just kind of like learning how to mentally deal with things and then physically.
I think everybody has the tools to do it. Its just staying locked in and being able to get it done on a daily basis.