A Visit to Salt River Fields

Last week, I had the chance to visit the Arizona Diamondbacks’ state-of-the-art spring training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

While there, I spoke with (among others) the new Hillsboro Hops manager, and a couple of players who were with the Hops in 2013 — including one who is currently ticketed for a return trip to Hillsboro.

First, let’s meet the new skipper, J.R. House. If you’re a Hops fan, you’re likely familiar with J.R. — he was Hillsboro’s hitting instructor last season. Needless to say, he’s excited about the upcoming season, which begins on June 13th:

Hillsboro’s most dangerous hitter in 2013 was Zach Esquerra, who led the club in home runs (8) and tied for the team lead in RBIs (33), though a rib cage injury limited him to just 46 games. Esquerra was taken in last year’s draft, so this is his first spring training. I first asked him what it’s been like:

Esquerra will likely begin the 2014 season with Arizona’s Class A affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, and hopefully move up from there. Another 2013 Hop, however, is currently ticketed for a return trip to Hillsboro — fleet-footed center fielder Taylor Ratliff. Personally, I’d love to see Ratliff back in a Hops uniform — after missing most of the 2012 college season with injury and all of the 2013 college season with ineligibility, he was flat-out rusty in his first pro season last summer. He spoke first about the adjustments he made last year:

And finally, one other note. On the very day I visited the D-backs’ camp, Hillsboro’s most popular player from 2013, outfielder Yogey Perez-Ramos, was released by Arizona. Word is, Yogey’s throwing arm was getting progressively worse. Already one of the older players in Short Season ball last year, his prospect status had dried up. Let’s hope Yogey is able to hook on elsewhere.

 

Cox, LaRussa and Torre: Who Played for All Three?

A dozen players appeared in at least one major league game under each of the three managers who were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. And one of them, amazingly, won a World Series ring with all three.

How many can you name?

First, the player who won a World Series ring with Cox, LaRussa and Torre: outfielder Luis Polonia, who was a member of the 1989 world champion A’s (although he was traded to the Yankees in the Rickey Henderson deal midway through that year, he did play in 59 games for the ’89 A’s — and got a ring — and did appear in the ’88 World Series for Oakland). Polonia played in winning World Series with the Braves in 1995 (when he homered off Orel Hershiser in Game Five) and the Yankees in 2000.

There are a couple of other fairly obvious ones baseball geeks oughta be able to name, especially when you consider that Torre followed Cox in Atlanta in 1982, and LaRussa followed Torre in St. Louis in 1996. They are: Glenn Hubbard, who played for Cox from 1978-81, Torre from 1982-84 (both in Atlanta) and LaRussa in Oakland in 1988-89; and Brian Jordan, who played for Torre from 1992-95, LaRussa from 1996-98 (both in St. Louis), and Cox in Atlanta from 1999-01 and ’05-06.

The complete list:

Darren Bragg (LaRussa STL ’99; Torre NYY ’01; Cox ATL ’02-03)
Octavio Dotel (Torre NYY ’06; Cox ATL ’07; LaRussa STL ’11)
Rafael Furcal (Cox ATL ’00-05; Torre LAD ’08-10; LaRussa STL ’11)
Darren Holmes (Torre NYY ’98; LaRussa STL ’00; Cox ATL ’02-03)
Glenn Hubbard (Cox ATL ’78-81; Torre ATL ’82-84; LaRussa OAK ’88-89)
Brook Jacoby (Cox ATL ’81; Torre ATL ’83; LaRussa OAK ’91)
Brian Jordan (Cox ATL ’99-01; ’05-06; Torre STL ’92-95; LaRussa STL ’96-98)
Steve Karsay (LaRussa OAK ’93-94; Cox ATL ’01; Torre NYY ’02, ’04-05)
Jeff Parrett (Cox ATL ’90-91; LaRussa OAK ’92 and STL ’96; Torre STL ’95)
Luis Polonia (LaRussa OAK ’87-89; Cox ATL ’95-96; Torre NYY ’00)
Matt Sinatro (Cox ATL ’81; Torre ATL ’82-84; LaRussa OAK ’87-88)
Claudell Washington (LaRussa CHW ’79-80; Cox ATL ’81; Torre ATL ’82-84)

One other player looked at first as though he’d played for all three — pitcher Mike Morgan, who played for just about everyone. Morgan did play for the 1995 St. Louis Cardinals, but he was traded from the Cubs the day after Torre was fired by the Cards and replaced by interim skipper Mike Jorgensen.

Why Yogey Probably Won’t Win the Batting Title. (Sigh.)

If you were listening to last night’s broadcast, I’m sure you could feel my heart sink when I heard Salem-Keizer put up eight runs in the bottom of the second inning against Eugene, effectively ending Hillsboro’s playoff hopes.

And perhaps you could feel it sink even further when I realized that Boise outfielder Kevin Encarnacion would qualify for an obscure (but appropriate) baseball rule that would rip the batting title away from Hops left-fielder Yogey Perez-Ramos.

Yes, Yogey leads the league in hitting at .314, 12 points ahead of Vancouver’s L.B. Dantzler. Encarnacion is not listed among the league leaders, because he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify. But, barring a huge day from Yogey today (and he probably won’t even play), Encarnacion will win the batting title anyway.

According to the Official Baseball Rules, rule 10.22 (a) (“Minimum Standards for Individual Championships,”), a minor-league player must have 2.7 plate appearances for each game his team plays to qualify for a batting crown; In a 76-game NWL season, that’s 205 PA.

The rule then states, “Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting championship.”

And this makes sense. Why should a player be denied a batting championship when he’s a dozen plate appearances shy of qualifying, and he could go 0-for-12 in those plate appearances if he had them and still lead the league?

Right now, Kevin Encarnacion is 59 x 166 in 188 PA, hitting .355.

If he plays today in the season finale and goes 0-for-5, he’ll be 59 x 171 in 193 PA, hitting .345. That leaves him 12 PA shy of qualifying for the league lead. Add those 12 PA to his AB total, and he’d be 59 x 183, which is .3224.

If he doesn’t play today, it works out the same. He’ll be 59 x 166 in 188 PA, but in this case you’d add 17 AB, and he’d still be 59 x 183, .3224.

What about Yogey? He didn’t play yesterday with a minor heel injury, and he may not play today because of it. If he does play today, 3×3 puts him at .3219; 4×4 puts him at .324; 4×5 puts him at .3233; 5×5 puts him at .327; 4×6 puts him at .3220.

So if he does play, he’d have to get at least four hits in either four or five at-bats to surpass .3224, which is the worst Encarnacion’s adjusted average can be. And of course, if Encarnacion plays, each hit he got would move his adjusted average higher.

And one final note: if Encarnacion does win the league batting title, his league-leading batting average would obviously be his final listed average, not his adjusted average; the adjusted average is only used to determine if he qualifies to lead the league.

So, no postseason play for the Hops. And (probably) no batting title for Yogey.

But even those two things don’t tarnish an amazing first year of Hillsboro Hops baseball. Even though the Hops are out of the race, I hope you’ll tune into our final broadcast today. I’ll spend a lot of time reminiscing about this amazing season. What a fantastic summer it’s been. Airtime 4:05 PM on Fox Sports Radio 620 and http://www.foxsportsradio620.com.

Talk to you then for one final time.

No-No Notes

We take this break in the discussion of Kyle Schepel’s no-hitter to bring you up-to-date on the South Division pennant race. The Hops won last night, but Salem-Keizer also won. This means the Hops’ elimination number is one — a Hops loss or a Salem-Keizer win over Eugene over the season’s final two days, and the Hops’ pennant hopes are over. But, hey… the Hops are alive on the next-to-last day of the season, and if you’re alive then, anything can happen. Right?

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming…

Hear the final two innings of Kyle Schepel’s no-hitter on my personal site at http://www.RichBurk.com.

You can read the story I wrote after the game here.

And here are a few more notes on the gem by Schepel (pronounced “SKAY-pul”):

– Yes, it’s the first no-hitter by a Hillsboro Hop (which makes sense; they’re in their first season)… but the Hops’ predecessor, the Yakima Bears, never had a no-hitter (solo or combined) in their 23 seasons.

– It was Schepel’s second no-hitter this season. The first was a seven-inning no-no in the first game of a doubleheader for South Bend in Lansing, Mich. on April 14th.

– It’s the first no-hitter in the history of Boise Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1989. There have been approximately 970 games there, including the postseason.

– It’s the first nine-inning complete-game no-hitter in the Northwest League since July 17, 1993, when Glenn Dishman of Spokane threw one against Yakima. In the 20 years since, the only complete-game no-no in the NWL was a rain-shortened five-inn by Brad Hertzler of Vancouver against Spokane on July 18, 2007.

– It’s the second no-hitter in the NWL this season; the other was a combined nine-inning no-no by Tri-City over Salem-Keizer on July 20, thrown by Sam Moll (5 inn), Shane Broyles (2 inn.), Jerad McCrummen (1 inn.) and Trent Daniel (1 inn.)

– It was the 30th no-hitter in affiliated minor-league baseball this year. (Keep in mind there are more than 170 teams). Of the 30, it was the 14th complete game no-no (Schepel has two of them), and the eighth nine-inning complete-game no-hitter.

– Looking here, a quick scan from the bottom tells me — assuming the document is accurate — that it’s the first time a pitcher has recorded two complete-game no-hitters in one season since Bud Smith tossed a pair for Arkansas in the Texas League in 2000. Maybe one of my readers can research this document for other occurrences of multiple single-season complete-game no-nos? Hint, Hint?

– Boise entered the game as the top-hitting club in the Northwest League, leading the circuit in batting average (.274), home runs (49) and hits (674, 9.2 per game). I know what you’re thinking: But what about the guys in the lineup last night? The nine players in the lineup last night entered the game hitting a combined .280, with 38 of Boise’s 49 home runs this year.

And from a personal standpoint:

This is the fourth no-hitter I’ve called, but the first nine-inning no-no. Here they are:

May 14, 2002, Junior Herndon, Portland Beavers at Tacoma (7 inn.)
June 9, 2006, perfect game, Ryan Meaux (4 ip), Aquilino Lopez (2 ip), Cla Meredith (1 ip), Portland Beavers at Sacramento (7 inn.)
June 30, 2009, perfect game, Brandon Hynick, Colorado Springs vs. Portland Beavers (7 inn.)
Aug. 31, 2013, Kyle Schepel, Hillsboro Hops at Boise (9 inn.)

Let’s just hope it’s not Schepel’s final start this year, and that he gets one in the playoffs.

Go Hops. Go Eugene. Live another day.

Gaining Clarity on the Pennant Race

It’s 1:55 in the morning, and I am absolutely geeking out on Northwest League baseball—I’m already preparing for tomorrow night’s game. You gotta love a pennant race.

As you probably know by now, the Hops beat Eugene tonight 9-2, and Salem-Keizer beat Boise 10-8. This eliminates most of the variables I wrote about yesterday here at The Blog to be Named Later.

First, here are the updated standings:

           W     L    GB   Remaining Games:
Hillsboro 20    14    --   1 home vs. Eugene, 3 at Boise
Boise     20    14    --   1 home vs. S-K, 3 home vs. Hops
S-K       20    14    --   1 at Boise, 3 home vs. Eugene

Yep. A three-way tie for first, with four days left in the season.  The Hops hold no tie-breakers — they have to win the title outright to make the playoffs. (If you need a primer on how the playoffs work in the Northwest League, scroll down to read my blog from yesterday. I won’t repeat it here.)

Here are the four possible scenarios for Friday, and how they affect the weekend:

Best-case scenario for Friday: If, on Friday, the Hops beat Eugene and Boise beats Salem-Keizer, then the Hops need either to a) sweep Boise in the final series Saturday-Monday, or b) take two out of three against Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer at least once.

Second-best-case scenario for Friday: If, on Friday, the Hops beat Eugene and Salem-Keizer beats Boise, then the Hops need to either a) take two out of three against Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer at least twice; or b) sweep Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer at least once.

Third-best-case scenario for Friday: If, on Friday, the Hops lose to Eugene and Boise beats Salem-Keizer, then the Hops need to sweep Boise and get at least one win out of Eugene against Salem-Keizer.

Worst-case scenario for Friday: If, on Friday, the Hops lose to Eugene and Salem-Keizer beats Boise, then the Hops need to either a) sweep Boise and have Eugene take at least two of three against Salem-Keizer; or B) take two of three from Boise and have Eugene sweep Salem-Keizer.

Bottom line: pull for the Hops and Boise to win on Friday.

That’s a little more clear than yesterday, right?

Okay, I’d better get some sleep. Big game coming up tomorrow… er, later tonight.

All is Not Lost for the Hops

I’ve been trying to get my mind wrapped around the possible scenarios for the Hops to get into the playoffs after last night’s 6-5 loss to Eugene.

The big questions are these:

Can the Hops afford another loss against Eugene?

And this: The Hops go to Boise for the final three games. Will the Hops have to sweep Boise, or can they afford one loss there?

Maybe this’d be easier for some of you than it is me, and I’ve tried several ways to figure it out. But I finally decided to take a look at the standings after each possible “if-then” scenario.

At first, I thought I’d take you through my process of figuring it out, and then give you the bottom line. But with respect to this pressed-for-time society, I’ve decided to tell you my conclusions, and then give you the details on how I’ve come to them in case you have time to go through it.

So here you go:

1) The best possible scenario over the next two nights is for the Hops to beat Eugene twice (obviously); and for Boise and Salem-Keizer to split a pair. If this happens, then over the weekend, the Hops will either need to a) sweep Boise, or b) take two out of three against Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer once.

2) If the Hops go 1-1 over the next two nights against Eugene, it’s still best if Boise and Salem-Keizer split a pair. If this happens, then the Hops will need to sweep Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer once.

3) Believe it or not, if the Hops go 0-2 vs. Eugene, they’re not eliminated unless Boise goes 2-0 against Salem-Keizer. But they’d need a LOT of help from Eugene over the weekend.

4) Whatever the Hops do against Eugene, the best-case scenario is for Boise and Salem-Keizer to split a pair. Next-best is for Salem-Keizer to win two over Boise. Worst-case scenario is for Boise to beat Salem-Keizer twice.

Before I get into the details of the IF-THEN scenarios, some of you may need some background.

Here are the second-half standings after last night’s 6-5 loss to Eugene:

          W     L    GB
Boise    20    13    --
Hops     19    14     1
S-K      19    14     1

Games remaining:
Hillsboro: two at home against Eugene, three at Boise
Boise: two at home against Salem-Keizer, three at home against Hillsboro
Salem-Keizer: two at Boise, three at home against Eugene

And if you haven’t been paying close attention, understand these things:

– There are two divisions in the Northwest League, the North and the South. In the first round of the Northwest League playoffs, the first-half champion plays the second-half champion from the same division. For this discussion, we’re only concerning ourselves with the South, which includes the Hops, Boise, Salem-Keizer and Eugene. (Eugene is out of the race, which, as we’ve seen, makes them particularly dangerous.)

– If one team wins both halves, they’ll play the next-best team from their division with the best overall record for the entire season.

– Salem-Keizer, as the first-half champ in the South, is already in the playoffs. They will face either Boise or Hillsboro.

– If Salem-Keizer also wins the second half, the Hops would be eliminated, as Boise has the better overall record for the entire season.

– The Hops hold no tiebreakers against either Salem-Keizer or Boise; they must win the second-half division title outright in order to advance to the playoffs.

All that clear? Now, for those if-then scenarios:

I’ve done it like this: IF “abc” happens Thursday and Friday, THEN “xyz” needs to happen Saturday through Monday.

So…

IF on Thursday and Friday…
… the Hops go 2-0 against Eugene and Boise goes 2-0 against Salem-Keizer…
THEN the Hops need to sweep Boise over the weekend.

IF on Thursday and Friday the Hops go 2-0 and Boise goes 1-1, then the Hops need either to a) take two out of three against Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer once; or b) sweep Boise.

IF the Hops go 2-0 and Boise goes 0-2, THEN the Hops need to either a) take two out of three against Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer twice; or b) sweep Boise and have Eugene beat Salem-Keizer once.

IF the Hops go 1-1, and Boise goes 2-0, THEN the Hops need to sweep Boise.

IF the Hops go 1-1, and Boise goes 1-1, THEN the Hops need to sweep Boise and get one win out of Eugene against Salem-Keizer.

IF the Hops go 1-1 and Boise goes 0-2, THEN the Hops need to either a) sweep Boise and have Eugene take two of three against Salem-Keizer; or B) take two of three from Boise and have Eugene sweep Salem-Keizer.

IF the Hops go 0-2, and Boise goes 2-0, THEN the Hops are eliminated.

If the Hops go 0-2, and Boise goes 1-1, THEN the Hops need to sweep Boise and have Eugene take 2 of 3 from Salem-Keizer.

If the Hops go 0-2, and Boise goes 0-2, THEN the Hops need to sweep Boise and have Eugene sweep Salem-Keizer.

I hope that clears things up. At least a little. Go Hops!

A Few Notes on the Pennant Race

The Hops (19-12) are now one game up on Boise (18-13) and a game and a half up on Salem-Keizer (17-13), with seven games remaining in the season. A win over Boise tonight in the series finale would put the Hops two games up on Boise with six to play. On the other hand, if Boise wins tonight and Salem-Keizer sweeps their doubleheader in Eugene, there would be a three-way tie for the top in the South. And remember, the Hops hold no tiebreakers — they have to finish with an outright second-half title to advance to the playoffs.

And if they make the playoffs? They would host Game One of the best-of-three first-round series against first-half champ Salem-Keizer, on Tuesday, Sept. 3rd at 7:05 PM. Games two and (if necessary) three would be Wednesday and Thursday,  Sept. 4-5 in Keizer. If the Hops should win the first-round series, they’d host Game One of the Northwest League Championship Series, on Saturday, Sept. 7th at 7:05 PM. Games  two and (again, if necessary) three would be on Sunday and Monday Sept. 8-9 at the home park of the North Division champion.

But we’re getting WAY ahead of ourselves. (Still, it’s nice to plan ahead, right?) And when the Hops started with just four wins in their first 19 games, who woulda thunk we’d even be having this conversation? Thank God for the split-season format.

Bottom line: a win tonight would go a long way.

Hops pitching, by the way, has been phenomenal during this stretch where the Hops have won eight of nine games. Over that span, the Hops staff has an ERA of 1.80. Yesterday, Boise hit two doubles. Even with those, Hops pitching has allowed just six extra-base hits in the last nine games — three doubles, two triples and a home run.

Get out to Hillsboro Ballpark tonight — the first 1,000 fans through the gates get a Hops logo baseball presented by Kah-Nee-Tah Resort & Spa… and at 6:15, many of the Hops players will be on the concourse to sign autographs.

How about Yogey Perez-Ramos, huh? He has four — count ‘em, four — extra-inning walkoff hits this year: 7/5 vs. Vancouver (single), 7/21 vs. Spokane (double), 7/26 vs. Everett (single) and yesterday vs. Boise (single). … Shortstop Ryan Gebhardt has the only other game-ending RBI, a sac fly foul-out to beat Vancouver in 19 innings on 7/7.

And finally, I’m not into tooting my own horn. (Okay, that’s not true; we all are to some degree, right?) At any rate, my alma mater, Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., did a piece on me earlier this month. You can find it here: http://www.pacificu.edu/magazine/content/burk-baseball?ref=hp.

There’s nothing like pennant-race baseball. See you at the ballpark!

Pennant Fever Heating Up in Hillsboro

Okay, here we go: nine games in the final nine days of the season. This, Hillsboro, is your first look at a pennant race. And it figures to be a good one.

Here are the second-half South Division standings entering play today (Saturday, August 24th):

2nd-half standings

TONIGHT’S GAME:
The first-place Hillsboro Hops ride their franchise-record seven-game winning streak back to Hillsboro Ballpark to begin a three-game series against South Division rival Boise. Hillsboro has the best second-half record in the league (18-11); Boise is second best in the NWL (17-12).

PENNANT FEVER:
It’s between the Hops and Boise as to who will face first-half division champ Salem-Keizer in the first round of the playoffs. Hillsboro leads Boise by one game (and Salem-Keizer by two games) with nine left to play. Beginning tonight, the Hops play six of their final nine against Boise.

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS:
The first-half South Division champ (Salem-Keizer) will play the second-half South Division champ in the best-of-three first-round series beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3rd. Here’s how things shape up:
If Salem-Keizer wins the second half outright, they would face the team with the best overall record. Boise would make the playoffs; the Hops would be eliminated.
If Salem-Keizer and Hillsboro tie for the second-half title, Salem-Keizer would win the tie-breaker because they were 9-3 against the Hops. Boise would make the playoffs, and the Hops would be eliminated.
If Boise and Hillsboro tie for the second-half title, Boise would have the better head-to-head record vs. Hillsboro. Boise advances, Hops eliminated.
All of this means that the Hops must win the second-half title outright to advance to the playoffs.

THEY KNOW EACH OTHER…
The Hops are 1-5 against Boise this year.
Boise took 2 of 3 in Boise June 26-27: The first game of the year between the two clubs was rained out on 6/25, forcing a doubleheader on 6/26. Boise won the opener 4-3 with two runs in B7 on botched bunt play; Hops won nightcap 3-2 on 3 Boise E’s. On 6/27, Boise’s Yasiel Balaguert snapped 3-3 tie with HR in B8 for 5-3 win.
Boise swept 3 in Hillsboro July 15-17: Won opener 7-4 after taking 7-1 lead to B9… On July 16, Boise broke scoreless tie with 3 in T9 on two walks, a Carlos Penalver double and a Danny Lockhart squeeze. On July 17, the Hops lost a listless 5-1 game to Boise, their sixth straight defeat, to fall to 8-25 this season.

… AND YET THEY DON’T:
Since getting swept at home by Boise in their last series July 15-17 (to fall to 8-25), the Hops are 21-13, matching Boise for the league’s best record since 7/18. … Eight current Hops were not with Hillsboro during that series.

REVEALING MORE ABOUT STREAKING:
The Hops’ current seven-game winning streak matches the longest streak by the franchise’s predecessor, the Yakima Bears, in at least the last 10 seasons. Yakima won seven in a row in 2011; no game-by-game records are readily available prior to 2004. … With a win tonight, the Hops would match the longest winning streak by a NWL club in 2013—Salem-Keizer won their final eight games of June (6/23-6/30).

BEYOND QUALITY:
Hops starting pitchers have reeled off eight consecutive “quality starts” (six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs). Over the last eight games, the starters are 4-1 with a 0.75 ERA; in 60 innings, they’ve allowed 51 hits (3 HR), 12 r, 9er, 12bb, 44k.

THE MAYTAG REPAIRMEN:
Though there has been minimal use for the Hops bullpen, they too have shone during the seven-game winning streak, with 14ip, 8h, 4r, 3er, 8bb, 13k; Jose Jose has 3 saves, and Blayne Weller has two.

STAFF INFECTION:
The Hops seven-game winning streak began with a 7-5, 10-inning win in Spokane on Aug. 17th. Over the past six games (beginning with the second game of the current seven-game winning streak) the Hops’ pitching staff as a whole is 6-0, 0.80, with 56ip, 44h, 6r, 5 er, 14bb, 46K.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Get your tail out to Hillsboro Ballpark over the next six games to help cheer the Hops on to the pennant! We have three games at home against Boise (Saturday 7:05PM, Sunday 1:35 PM, Monday 7:05PM), and three at home against Eugene (Wednesday-Friday 7:05PM each night). Hillsboro then finishes the season with three games in Boise (Saturday through Labor Day). Catch all Hillsboro Hops games live on Fox Sports Radio 620 AM, and online at www.foxsportsradio620.com. Pregame tonight is at 6:35.

Notes from yesterday’s 19-inning, record-setting game

Okay, I admit it: I’m a little odd when it comes to extra-inning games. Most play-by-play guys don’t like them. I do, for a couple of reasons: number one, since most games (unlike yesterday) are night games, I don’t have anything better to do at 11:00 at night — if we’re on the road, I’ll just be going back to the hotel. If we’re at home, my family’s asleep by the time I get home anyway.

But the bigger reason is this: if we’re in extra innings, it’s a guarantee it’s a great game. (And besides, extra innings give me more time to flap my lips — er, describe more action and tell more stories, which is the main reason I do this job.)

So, as far as I’m concerned, bring ‘em on. As the Hillsboro Hops game yesterday entered the 17th inning — making it the longest I’ve ever broadcast in about 1,870 career games — I was thinking, let’s make this truly epic. Let’s break the NWL record of 25 innings. (Admittedly, it did help that my broadcast partner, Matt Richert, was with me yesterday. I wasn’t going solo, but that would’ve been fun too.)

Well, we fell short of the league record, when the Hops won 5-4 on a short sacrifice foul fly by Ryan Gebhardt in the bottom of the 19th, with John Leonard scoring the winning run.

But we didn’t fall short of epic.

Consider (and as you do, remember that the Northwest League is in its 59th season):

– Hops third baseman Randy McCurry had 10 assists, tying the NWL record for single-game assists by a third-sacker. (Tim Doerr of Seattle had 10 in one game vs. Lewiston on August 7, 1974.)

– Vancouver first baseman Jordan Leyland broke the Northwest League record for putouts in a game by a first baseman, with 22 (11 in the final seven innings). The previous record was 20, set by Henry Robinson of Walla Walla in 1972 (length of game unknown), and equaled by Manelik Pimentel of Everett in 2007 (in a 12-inning game) and Ryan Rua of Spokane in 2012 (in an 11-inning game).  Hops first baseman George Roberts might have broken the league record himself, had he not been removed for a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 11th. Roberts recorded 15 putouts in 11 innings, and his replacement, Ryan Kinsella, had nine in eight innings. (One of Kinsella’s putouts was a game-saving pick in the top of the 17th.) UPDATE: Leyland actually had 23 putouts — I had missed a putout on a strikeout where the catcher needed to throw to first.

– The previous Northwest League record for assists in a game by one team was 24, set by Vancouver against Eugene in a 13-inning game on July 18, 2011. Vancouver broke their own record by recording their 25th assist in the bottom of the 17th inning. They recorded two more in the bottom of the 18th inning, finishing with 27. Unfortunately, the record would be short-lived — Hillsboro recorded its 27th and 28th assists on the 6-4-3 double play that ended the top of the 19th inning. UPDATE: BOTH teams ended up with the new league-record 28 assists each — on the aforementioned strikeout-with-a-throw-out-at-first, Vancouver collected one more assist than I had given them credit for.

– Both teams broke the 53-year-old league record for at-bats in a single game. The previous record was 57, set by Lewiston against Salem on Sept. 2, 1960. Hillsboro had 66 at-bats, Vancouver 61. UPDATE: My bad. The old record was for a nine-inning game. This record was not broken.

Other remarkable notes:

– There were 508 pitches thrown in the game — 246 by the Canadians, and 262 by the Hops.

– Since there have been only 24 games in the history of the Hillsboro Hops, yesterday’s game was of course the longest the club has played, in terms of both time (5:28) and innings (19). But how rare was yesterday? Since moving from Medford to Vancouver for the 2000 season, the Canadians have played 1,011 games. And yesterday’s game was the longest — in both time and innings — in their franchise history. The longest previous game for Vancouver was a 15-inning contest in 2001. Besides the 19-inning and 15-inning games, Vancouver has played 12 games of either 13 or 14 innings in their 14-years in Vancouver. Since 2004, Vancouver is 2-7 in games that last longer than 12 innings.

– UPDATE: Hillsboro Hops owner Mike McMurray has passed along that the 19-inning game matches the Yakima franchise record, set in a game during the early 1990s.

– Canadians first baseman Jordan Leyland entered the game with a 13-game hitting streak. He went 0-for-7 with a walk and struck out three times.

– Before yesterday, Hillsboro catcher Grant Nelson had not had a single at-bat at Hillsboro Ballpark this season. A 9th-rounder in 2013, he is the highest-drafted position player from this year’s draft on the Hops roster, and entering yesterday had caught just four games and DH’d one, all on the road. Nelson made up for lost time yesterday, accumulating eight at-bats. He went 1-for-8 with an RBI and a run scored.

– Nelson had 22 putouts in the game, falling one shy of tying the NWL record for putouts in a game by a catcher. Dustin Garneau of Tri-City had 23 in a game on July 30, 2010.

– Vancouver pounded out 22 hits in their 16-4 win over Hillsboro in the previous game, on Saturday night. In Sunday’s 19-inning marathon, Vancouver had just seven hits—and hit the ball out of the infield only eight times. Vancouver’s batters struck out 21 times, three shy of the league single-game record.

– The Hops’ pitching staff entered Saturday’s game second in the league in ERA at 3.21, but fell to fifth at 3.75 after allowing 15 earned runs in the 16-4 loss. After allowing only three earned runs in 19 innings yesterday, Hillsboro has climbed back to second in the NWL at 3.54.

– Ryan Gebhardt’s hitting streak ended at six games, as he went 0-for-7 with a sacrifice bunt and the game-winning sacrifice foul fly.

Summary of new Northwest League records set or tied yesterday (the Northwest League, in existence since 1955, is in its 59th season):

NWL records broken:

Most assists, team, single game (TIE): 28, Hillsboro Hops; and 28, Vancouver Canadians
Most putouts by a first baseman, single game: 23, Jordan Leyland, Vancouver Canadians

NWL records tied:

Most assists by a third baseman, single game: 10, Randy McCurry, Hillsboro Hops

And finally, my favorite note from the entire day:

Hops outfielders recorded only two putouts in the 19 innings, both by center fielder Taylor Ratliff. Left fielder Jordan Parr fielded four Vancouver base hits, and Ratliff fielded two (their only other hit was a bunt single). Hops right fielder Zach Esquerra never touched the ball in 19 innings.

For more, see the box score.

Story Time

We were rained out tonight in Boise. So with a little extra time on my hands, I’m going to be brutally honest about your 2013 Hillsboro Hops. Here goes:

They’re WAY better than their 3-8 record indicates.

Sure, you say… that’s just the team’s broadcaster being positive. But get this: the Hops have a run differential of PLUS SIX. Yes, although they’re 3-8, they’ve scored six MORE runs than their opponents this year. That’s just weird.

How? In their eight losses, they’ve been outscored by a grand total of 13 runs. In their three wins, they’ve outscored their opponents by 19 runs.

Their pitching staff has the best ERA in the league. And all of this points to the team being better than their early-season won-loss record.

One thing’s for sure: the games have been entertaining. Only once in 11 games has it not been a one- or two-run game in the last three innings — and that was the home-opener, a 12-0 Hops win.

And one way or the other, I’ll try to keep it entertaining no matter the score. Along those lines — and under the heading of “in case you missed it,” here are a couple of recent in-game stories you might find interesting. The first, from Monday, is the remarkable story of Jack Lohrke:

And then there’s this, from last Friday, a story about the birth dates of the people on the Hillsboro Hops field staff:

With tonight’s rainout, we’ll play two in Boise on Wednesday. Airtime will be 4:35 Pacific on Fox Sports 620 AM in Portland, and throughout the rest of the world at www.foxsportsradio620.com. The first pitch of game one is scheduled for 5:15. And remember, after the series finale on Thursday, the Hops return home to Hillsboro Ballpark on Friday for a 7:05 game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.

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