September Mourn

Yes, I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted here. But I’ve been doing this. And of course this. And these take tons of time, but I really enjoy doing them because it’s the same as preparing for games. Oh, and I also got to do this, which was a dream come true. So Rich Burk’s Short Hops have suffered.

I digress.

Tonight, the Hillsboro Hops could have been playing for another title in front of their home fans. But no. And it’s still hard for me to believe what I saw unfold on Friday. Overall, I believe it’s the most frustrating loss in the two decades I’ve been doing this.

After the Boston Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series, Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst said, “Losing hurts worse than winning feels good.”

I’ve always hated that statement, and told whomever I can that, no, I’ve been through both, and winning feels better than losing hurts.

But I gotta tell you, the events of last Friday have severely tested my theory on the matter. Am I just getting greedy?

I mean, how fortunate are we in Hops Nation? How many teams — and fans of those teams — can celebrate back-to-back league championships, let alone in an uber-competitive pro circuit like the Northwest League? And think of the way those titles happened… winning game one in Vancouver two years ago after trailing 5-0 against a club that had won three straight titles, and almost never lost in the postseason at home… last year, beating Salem-Keizer in 13 innings in the final game of the South Division Series, with the #1-overall pick in the draft, Dansby Swanson, getting the game-ending hit… and so much more.

I’m trying to think of these things to keep Friday’s loss in perspective. And I’m having limited success.

’Cause, dang, we were on the cusp of being on the cusp of history. What do I mean by that? Well, the Northwest League record for consecutive championships is four, set by Spokane from 1987-90. I was reeallly looking forward to that being the theme of the 2017 season. Can the Hops tie the record? (And, I almost don’t even want to admit this publicly, but I even allowed myself to consider the possibility that during the 2018 season, the Hops would have a chance to match the Yankees’ mark of five straight titles from 1949-53. What… get ahead of myself? Me? Never.)

And it’s not just that the Hops lost. It’s the way they lost. Now, please understand — I’m not putting the blame on our hitters. This is baseball. Sometimes you just… get… beat. And the Hops got beaten by an excellent pitching staff. But when you read this article, note how many Hops hitters made outs in key spots, while those same hitters got base hits in other innings without runners in scoring position. It’s utterly remarkable.

Again — please hear this loud and clear — I’m not saying our hitters didn’t come through in pressure situations. In a decisive playoff game where the score is tied or there’s only a one-run difference — as it was throughout Friday’s 2-1 game — they’re ALL pressure situations, even when you’re leading off the inning. (Besides, those same guys came through time after time down the stretch and on Wednesday to get the Hops where they were.) I’m merely commenting on the darned luck of the thing, how the hits didn’t come at the right times.

Understood? Okay then… check this out: I’ve gone through player-by-player, and the same hitters that went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position went 10-for-19 (!) in their at-bats without runners in scoring position. Ten. For. Nineteen. That’s a .526 batting average. (Oh, and in those non-RISP spots, they drew four walks and were hit by a pitch. They reached base 63% of the time.)

Now do you understand how much this one hurts?

So, yes, congratulations to the Eugene Emeralds. Their superb pitching staff gets the credit for that 0-for-15. As I type this on Monday afternoon, Eugene has a 1-0 lead on Everett in the Northwest League Championship Series, and tonight they can wrap up their first outright NWL title in 41 years. (They’re a Cubs affiliate. Will it be an omen?)

P.K. Park will be rocking. And tonight, Ron Tonkin Field will be dark.

That so could have been us.

Final Thoughts on 2015

Some of you have asked me to post our final segment from the last postgame show on Sunday.

Here it is.

Final Home Game Tonight: Hops Open NWL Championship Series

TONIGHT: The Hillsboro Hops’ quest to defend their 2014 NWL Championship continues with Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series, 7:05 PM Thursday at Ron Tonkin Field. The Hops face the Tri-City Dust Devils — the Padres’ NWL affiliate — who were first-half champions in the North and swept Everett 2-0 in the North Division Series.

HOPS TAKE EPIC GAME THREE: On Wednesday, the Hops pulled out a 6-5, 13-inning win (a 4:11 marathon) over Salem-Keizer in the deciding game of the South Division Series. Each team gave up one-run leads in the 9th inning. Dansby Swanson, the #1-overall pick in the 2015 draft, won it for Hillsboro with a bases-loaded single to center in the 13th. Cameron Gann, Brody Greer and Breckin Williams starred out of the bullpen

GAMEDAY INFORMATION IS FOR THE NWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAS BEEN POSTED.

FIRST- AND SECOND-HALF CHAMPS: The Hillsboro Hops won both halves in the South Division in the Northwest League’s split-season format for the second straight season. And, for the second consecutive year, Hillsboro finished with the outright best season-long record, 45-31. They had been 48-28 in 2014 before sweeping their way through the postseason.

TONIGHT’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 6:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

DOUBLE-CHECK THAT: I did, and it’s true: Hops relief pitcher Brody Greer has thrown 12 consecutive no-hit innings over his last 7g. 12ip, 0h, 0r, 3bb, 22k. How’s that for a college shortstop who was playing in the Alaska Summer League in 2013? His coaches there suggested he focus on pitching. He did, he dazzled, and he was signed by the D-backs.

REST VS. ADRENALINE: The Hops will have to refocus quickly after last night’s late-night win. And Tri-City knows exactly how the Hops feel, and probably more so. On Monday night into Tuesday, Tri-City won a 16-inning marathon 2-1 at Everett (a game which ended after midnight), then drove across the state to Pasco and on Tuesday night beat Everett 4-2 to sweep the North Division Series. Tri-City should be plenty rested after yesterday’s off-day.

VS. TRI-CITY: The Hops were 5-5 during the regular season vs. Tri-City — 3-2 at home, 2-3 in Pasco. Tri-City outscored the Hops 44-29, and scored 23 runs in 16 innings off Hillsboro’s vaunted bullpen in a 4-game stretch during the Hops visit to Pasco in July. All-time, Hillsboro is 15-15 vs. T-C (9-6 at home).

WELL-ENDOWED: Five of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top six 2015 draft choices are with the Hops for the playoffs: SS Dansby Swanson (1st round, #1 overall), LHP Alex Young (2nd round, #43 overall), RHP Taylor Clarke (3rd round), RHP Breckin Williams (4th round) and RHP Tyler Mark (6th round). The 5th-rounder, RHP Ryan Burr, spent the bulk of the year with the Hops before being sent to Class A Kane County on August 3rd. It is extremely rare for a parent-club’s top six picks in the draft to spend their first pro season with the same club.

SHOOTING BLANKS: The Hops set a new NWL record by tossing 11 shutouts. The previous mark of 10 had been held by Boise (1990), Vancouver (2002) and Tri-City (2011). Four of the shutouts came against Eugene, two vs. Vanc. & Spo., 1 each vs. Boise, Tri-City & S-K. The Hops did not shut out Everett. Hillsboro added an 8-0 shutout of S-K in the South Division Series.

THE FIRST SINCE WHO? Hops SS Dansby Swanson is the first top-overall pick in the draft to begin his career in the NWL in 27 years. The last? Ken Griffey Jr. with Bellingham in 1987 (54g, .313 with 14 HR as a 17-year-old). Matt Bush of the Padres played 8 games for Eugene in 2004, but he didn’t start his career there.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: The Hops finished the season a staggering 21-6 in one-run games (they’re now 22-6 including the playoffs). They are 53-30 in one-run games over three seasons (18-10 in 2014, 13-14 in 2013).

Hops Open South Division Series Tonight

TONIGHT: The Hops open the 2015 playoffs with game one of their best-of-three South Division series at Salem-Keizer, at 6:35 PM. Game two and (if necessary) game three would be Tuesday and Wednesday at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, with start times each night of 7:05 PM.

FIRST- AND SECOND-HALF CHAMPS: The Hillsboro Hops won both halves in the South Division in the Northwest League’s split-season format for the second straight season. And, for the second consecutive year, Hillsboro finished with the outright best season-long record, 45-31. They had been 48-28 in 2014 before sweeping their way through the postseason.

DÉJÀ VU: As they did last season, the Hops finished by winning their final four regular season games. (Last year, they would finish by winning eight games in a row, including all four in the postseason.) Hillsboro has swept their final regular season series in each of their three seasons. Hillsboro won 10 of their final 14 in 2015.

GAMEDAY INFORMATION FOR THE SOUTH DIVISION SERIES, WITH EXTENSIVE INFORMATION ON ALL PLAYERS, HAS BEEN POSTED.

YOU’RE WELCOME: Salem-Keizer is here because the Hops swept Eugene over the weekend. The Emeralds entered the series with a magic number of two, but dropped all three games while S-K won the first two in Boise. The Hops won both halves; S-K is their opponent because the Volcanoes had the next-best season-long record in the South, one game better than Eugene.

TONIGHT’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 6:05 PM ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

MILESTONES AND NEAR-MISSES: Trevor Mitsui set new franchise records for HR (10), RBIs (42), XBH (24), and total bases (105). … Zach Nehrir finished with 15 doubles — 14 in the first half (he missed 5 weeks in the second half with a wrist injury) — just one shy of the franchise record. … Sergio Alcantara set a new franchise record by playing in 71 games. He scored 34 runs, one shy of the franchise mark. … Jared Miller — who hasn’t been with the team since August 6th — set a new team mark with 7 wins. … Carlos Hernandez and Cody Reed each made 15 starts, a new Hops record. … Carlos Hernandez set team records for ERA (2.32) and strikeouts (93)

CAUTIONARY TALE: Yes, the Hops won both halves, but that does them little good now. You need only look back at the 2013 season to understand this. That year, Everett and Salem-Keizer each won both halves in their respective divisions… and both lost their division series (Salem-Keizer to Boise and Everett to Vanc.).

CORE FOUR? The Hops have 4 players on their current roster who also were on the roster in the playoffs in 2014: C Nate Irving, IF/OF Galli Cribbs Jr., IF Nate Robertson and OF Grant Heyman. Not a single current Hops pitcher was here during the 2014 postseason.

WELL-ENDOWED: Five of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top six 2015 draft choices are with the Hops for the playoffs: SS Dansby Swanson (1st round, #1 overall), LHP Alex Young (2nd round, #43 overall), RHP Taylor Clarke (3rd round), RHP Breckin Williams (4th round) and RHP Tyler Mark (6th round). The 5th-rounder, RHP Ryan Burr, spent the bulk of the year with the Hops before being sent to Class A Kane County on August 3rd. It is extremely rare for a parent-club’s top six picks in the draft to spend their first pro season with the same club.

VS. SALEM-KEIZER: The Hops were 9-3 during the regular season vs. Salem-Keizer — 5-1 at home, 4-2 in Keizer. Hillsboro out-scored the Volcanoes 61-49. The Volcanoes did hit 11 home runs against the Hops, including 3 each by C.J. Hinojosa and Ronnie Jebavy. All-time, Hillsboro is 18-18 vs. S-K (9-9 at each venue), but 18-12 after an 0-6 start in 2013.

CONGRATS CARLOS: Saturday, RHP Carlos Hernandez was named the NWL pitcher of the year. Later in the day, he secured the NWL ERA title (barely), when S-K’s Drew Leenhouts fell 1.2 scoreless inn. short of passing him. Leenhouts tossed 6 scoreless inn. in Boise and finished at 2.37; Hernandez at 2.32.

HOME SWEET HOME: When Carlos Hernandez allowed a run in the third inning on 8/24 at home vs. Tri-City, it ended a remarkable streak. He had not allowed a run — earned or otherwise — at home all season long. His streak ended at 35 scoreless innings at home. He ended up 2-1, 1.22 in six starts at home.

SHOOTING BLANKS: The Hops set a new NWL record by tossing 11 shutouts. The previous mark of 10 had been held by Boise (1990), Vancouver (2002) and Tri-City (2011). Four of the shutouts came against Eugene, two vs. Vanc. & Spo., 1 each vs. Boise, Tri-City & S-K. The Hops did not shut out Everett.

PUTTIN’ ON THE BRAKES: Hillsboro stole just 9 bases in the team’s last 21 games, after swiping 56 in the first 55 games. Why? On 8/15, Fernery Ozuna — 16×18 in stolen-base attempts — went down that day with a season-ending elbow injury, and Zach Nehrir (11×13) missed five weeks (7/30-9/2) with a wrist injury. They did steal three bases in the final 3-game series vs. Eugene, two by Nehrir and one by Nate Robertson.

INTERMITTENT POWER OUTAGES… Hillsboro did not homer in their last 11 regular season games, but went 8-3 in those games. After nine HR — 6 by Trevor Mitsui — in a six-game stretch from 8/15 to 8/20, Hillsboro hit just 1 HR in their last 16g (10-6 in those games). They had a 5-game stretch 7/3-7/7 with 8 HR; outside the 5-game stretch in July and the six-game stretch in August, Hillsboro hit just 15 HR in their other 65 games. Further proof that the longball isn’t critical to a team’s success.

… BUT LOTS OF PITCHING… Like offense? Dig the longball? Well, that’s great and all… but pitching is where it’s at, baby. The Hops finished last in the league in runs scored (314, 4.1 per game), and had the best record in the league. Hillsboro allowed the fewest runs in the NWL (292, 3.84 per game). For the second straight year, the Hops won the league ERA title under pitching coach Doug Drabek, with a staff earned run average of 3.27.

… AND SOLID D: The Hops’ defense was jaw-dropping in the final series against Eugene, with amazing defensive plays by Stephen Dezzi, Nate Robertson, Sergio Alcantara and Luis Veras, and excellent plays by Dansby Swanson, Galli Cribbs, Zach Nehrir and Gerard Hernandez. For the season, the Hops had the 3rd-fewest errors in the league (88), 9 more than the league-leader (Everett, 79). Trevor Mitsui led all NWL first basemen with a .998 fielding %, just 1E in 471 total chances. Another measure of defense — and pitchers’ ability to pitch around errors — is unearned runs allowed. The Hops allowed just 43 unearned runs, the fewest in the league.

TRENDING UPWARD: Trevor Mitsui had 28 RBIs in his last 21 games. He also had seven HR in that span, though just one in his last 16 games. What was the difference? Extensive batting cage work with coaches Javier Colina and Ben Petrick, and some changes in Mitsui’s stance and stride.

JACKS OR BETTER: The Hops’ first home run this season was a 3-run shot by Fernery Ozuna on 6/19 at Spokane. They didn’t hit another home run with more than one runner on base for two full months. They then had a trio of three-run home runs in a week: Trevor Mitsui (8/19 at Salem-Keizer), Dansby Swanson (8/20 home vs. Boise) and Mitsui again (8/25 home vs. Tri-City). After Mitsui’s 3-run jack on 8/25, the Hops didn’t hit another home run of any kind the rest of the year. The only grand slam in franchise history came 8/11/14 at S-K off the bat of Zach Esquerra.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: For the second straight year, the Hops finished the season with at least a .500 record against every team.

THE FIRST SINCE WHO? Hops SS Dansby Swanson is the first top-overall pick in the draft to begin his career in the NWL in 27 years. The last? Ken Griffey Jr. with Bellingham in 1987 (54g, .313 with 14 HR as a 17-year-old). Matt Bush of the Padres played 8 games for Eugene in 2004, but he didn’t start his career there.

LOW-HITTERS: In 2015, the Hops threw four combined two-hitters. Nine times in the franchise’s 232 games over three years they have held an opponent to two hits or fewer, including the no-hitter by Kyle Schepel (“SKAY-pul”) in Boise on 8/31/13. Hillsboro has had a two-hitter or better against every NWL club except Spokane.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS USED: When Justin Donatella took the mound on 8/25 at home against Tri-City, he became the 123rd different person to appear in a game for the Hops in the franchise’s three-year history. The Hops used more players in 2015 than in either of their first two years. In 2013, Hillsboro used 44 players; in 2014, 46 players; in 2015, 52 players. In their three-year history, Hillsboro has used 58 position players and 66 pitchers. (That totals 124 because Galli Cribbs Jr., the only position player ever to pitch for the Hops, is in both categories.)

GO QUICKLY HOME: In an incredibly odd note, the 12 longest nine-inning games in Hops franchise history (in terms of hours and minutes) have all come on the road. The longest nine-inning home game in Hops history came in the fourth game ever at Ron Tonkin Field, on 6/28/13 — it lasted 3:21. A dozen nine-inning road games have been longer, capped off by the longest, a 3:33 game just last week, on 9/1/15 at Boise. Four of the 12 longest over the three years have come at Salem-Keizer, and four at Spokane. Only 20 of the team’s 101 nine-inning home games have lasted three hours or longer. Thirty-two of those 101 games have lasted 2:30 or less.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: The Hops finished the season a staggering 21-6 in one-run games. They are 52-30 in one-run games over three seasons (18-10 in 2014, 13-14 in 2013).

1st- and 2nd-Half Champion Hops’ Playoff Opponent to be Determined Today

TODAY: The first- and second-half champion Hops face Eugene (4:05 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro) in the final game of the regular season. Despite back-to-back losses to the Hops, Eugene still has playoff hopesthey need a win over the Hops today, and a Salem-Keizer loss tonight in Boise. The Hops will travel to either Salem-Keizer or Eugene for game one of the best-of-three South Division series on Monday night.

TODAY’S GAMEDAY INFORMATION has been posted.

LAST NIGHT: Hillsboro clinched the second-half title with a 4-1 win over Eugene. It is the second straight year Hillsboro has won both halves. Troy Marks (6ip, 1r), Tyler Bolton (1ip), Ariel Hernandez (1ip) and Brody Greer (1ip) all had solid outings to shut down Eugene.

BEYOND DESPERATE: Eugene entered the series with a magic number of two and a playoff berth nearly assured. But 2-0 and 4-1 losses, coupled with two Salem-Keizer wins in Boise, have kept that magic number stuck at two and given control back to Salem-Keizer. Eugene now needs a win and help from Boise.

TODAY’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 3:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

VS. EUGENE: The Hops are 7-4 vs. Eugene this year, though they have out-scored the Ems only 34-32. Get this — Hillsboro pitching has separate scoreless-inning streaks against Eugene this year of 11, 25, 15 and 13. Eugene is hitting .259 against the rest of the league, .207 vs. Hillsboro. All-time, Hillsboro is 23-12 vs. the Ems, 10-7 at Ron Tonkin Field.

FINISHING STRONG: The Hops have won 9 of their last 13, and regardless of what happens today, Hillsboro will finish alone atop the entire NWL with the best season-long record for the second straight year.

CONGRATS CARLOS: Saturday, RHP Carlos Hernandez was named the NWL pitcher of the year. Later in the day, he secured the NWL ERA title (barely), when S-K’s Drew Leenhouts fell 1.2 scoreless innings short of passing him. Leenhouts tossed 6 scoreless innings in Boise and finished at 2.37; Hernandez at 2.32. Jared Miller, who was with the Hops from opening day until August 7, finished with a 1.81 ERA, but fell 1.1 innings short of the 61 necessary to be eligible for the title.

MILESTONE WATCH: Trevor Mitsui has set new franchise records for HR (10), RBIs (42), XBH (24), and tied the mark for total bases set by Yogey Perez-Ramos in 2013 (104). … Zach Nehrir has 15 doubles, while Mitsui and Luis Veras have 14 each — Jordan Parr (2014) and Perez-Ramos (2013) have the franchise record with 16. … Sergio Alcantara has scored 34 runs, one shy of the franchise mark of 35 held by Taylor Ratliff & Perez-Ramos (2013) and Jordan Parr (2014). … On Saturday, Alcantara set a new franchise record for games played (70).

Hops Can Clinch 2nd-Half Title Saturday

TONIGHT: Hillsboro can win the second-half South Division title by knocking off Eugene in the middle game of the three-game set. A win ensures the Hops of at least a tie atop the division, and the Hops hold the tiebreaker. RHP Troy Marks makes his third start; an in-depth look at Marks’ remarkable minor-league tour in 2015 is on the second page of today’s Gameday Information. Go here and click on 9-05-2015.

TONIGHT’S GAMEDAY INFORMATION has been posted.

LAST NIGHT: The Hops set a new NWL record with their 11th shutout, a 2-0 win over Eugene. Justin Donatella tossed five two-hit innings in a spot start, and Tucker Ward, Breckin Williams, Cameron Gann and Taylor Clarke each threw a scoreless frame. Trevor Mitsui drove home both runs with a double in the third, and now has 28 RBIs in the last 19 games. Nate Robertson and Luis Veras each made excellent defensive plays.

GETTING DESPERATE: Eugene’s playoff berth is no longer nearly assured. Their loss, coupled with Salem-Keizer’s 8-3 win in Boise, keeps their magic number stuck at two with two days remaining. If the Hops beat Eugene tonight, Salem-Keizer has their fate back in their own hands, and can themselves earn the right to face the Hops in the playoffs by winning their final two games against struggling Boise.

TODAY’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 4:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

VS. EUGENE: The Hops are 6-4 vs. Eugene this year, and entering the third inning of last Sunday’s 10-4 loss, Hillsboro had a stretch of just one run allowed in 41 innings against Eugene. All-time, Hillsboro is 22-12 against the Emeralds, 9-7 at Ron Tonkin Field.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: For the second straight year, the Hops will finish the season with at least a .500 record against every team.

TO BE THE BEST: One more win assures the Hops of finishing at least tied for the best season-long record in the league.

INTERMITTENT POWER OUTAGES: After hitting nine home runs — six by Trevor Mitsui — in a six-game stretch from 8/15 to 8/20, Hillsboro has just one HR in the last 14 games (they’re 8-6 in those games. They had a five-game stretch from 7/3-7/7 with eight home runs; outside those 11 games, Hillsboro has 15 HR in their other 63 games. Further proof that the longball isn’t critical to a team’s success.

GOOSE EGGS: 4 of the Hops’ NWL-record 11 shutouts have come vs. Eugene, 2 each vs. Vancouver and Spokane, and one each vs. Boise, Tri-City & Salem-Keizer. The only team the Hops did not shut out was Everett.

2nd Half Flag at Stake as Hops Open Final Series

TONIGHT: The Hops host the Eugene Emeralds in the opener of a three-game series — a series which will decide the 2nd-half South Division flag, as well as which team the Hops will face in the playoffs beginning Monday. First-half South Division champ Hillsboro is trying to win both halves for the second straight year. RHP Justin Donatella will make a spot start for Hillsboro. Don’t let his 8.10 ERA fool you. He allowed four runs in 1.1 innings in his last outing; in his other 10 games as a pro (nine in the Arizona Rookie League), his ERA is 0.89.

EUGENE WITH THE EDGE: An update on yesterday’s post (scroll down to see it). Eugene beat Salem-Keizer, so they have the inside track to face the Hops in the South Division series. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is two with three days remaining in the season — any combination of Eugene wins and Salem-Keizer losses totaling two over the next three days, and Eugene is in. While Eugene is at Hillsboro over the next three days, Salem-Keizer will be at Boise,

TONIGHT’S GAMEDAY INFORMATION: has been posted. Great stuff on all the players.

RECORD-TYING BLANKING: The Hops shut out Boise 12-0 last night, tying the Northwest League record for shutouts in a season. It was the Hops 10th shutout, equaling the mark set by Boise in 1990 and matched by Vancouver in 2002 and Tri-City in 2011.

LIVING UP TO THE BILLING: Hops shortstop Dansby Swanson, the #1-overall pick in the 2015 draft, went 5×6 at Boise last night, the second Hop ever with five hits in one game (Steve Nyisztor also did it at Boise in 2014).

TONIGHT’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 6:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

TRENDING UPWARD: Trevor Mitsui broke out of a 1-for-20 slide last night in Boise, going 2-for-4 with four runs batted in. The four RBIs give Mitsui 40, setting a new franchise single-season record. Incredibly, he has 26 RBIs in his last 18 games. He also has seven HR in that span, though just one in his last 13 games.

VS. EUGENE: The Hops are 5-4 vs. Eugene this year, and entering the third inning of last Sunday’s 10-4 loss, Hillsboro had a stretch of just one run allowed in 41 innings against Eugene. All-time, Hillsboro is 21-12 against the Emeralds, but just 8-7 at Ron Tonkin Field. Eugene took two of three here from July 1-3, including a 2-1, 11-inning win over the Hops — Hillsboro’s first-ever extra-inning home loss after 10 wins in their first two seasons.

LEAGUE ERA LEADER? Carlos Hernandez threw 6 shutout inn. at Boise Thu., lowering his ERA to 2.32. S-K LHP Drew Leenhouts, second in the league at 2.57 will need 7.2 inn without an earned run in his final start in Boise on Saturday to drop below Hernandez. Eugene’s Adbert Alzolay, the only other pitcher with a chance to catch Hernandez, has a 2.04 ERA, but needs 8 inn. to qualify; he threw 5.2 inn Thursday and is likely done for the regular season.

Deciphering the South Division Playoff Possibilities Entering Thursday’s Games

So, just who will the first-half champion Hops face in the South Division series beginning on Monday? Will it be Eugene? Or Salem-Keizer? I geeked out and spent a lot of time determining the possibilities today.

Before we get into all the details, you must understand these things:

— If Eugene wins the second-half South Division flag, they obviously will be the Hops playoff opponent. If Hillsboro wins the second half — giving them both halves — their playoff opponent will be the division rival with the next-best season-long overall record. And entering play tonight (Thursday), Eugene and Salem-Keizer were tied at 37-35 in the overall standings.

— Thursday night, Hillsboro finishes its series in Boise. Salem-Keizer hosts Eugene. Then, over the weekend, Eugene comes to Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro for a three-game series, while Salem-Keizer travels to Boise for three. The regular season ends Sunday, and the playoffs begin on Monday.

— Hillsboro opens the best-of-three South Division series on Monday at either Salem-Keizer or Eugene. Game two, and if necessary game three, would be in Hillsboro on Tuesday and Wednesday.

So, with all that as prologue, here are the bottom-line takeaways entering Thursday night’s games. After this, for those of you with a lot of time on your hands, I will explain the scenarios that led to these conclusions.

1) Salem-Keizer has already been eliminated from division contention.

2) If Salem-Keizer beats Eugene Thursday, Salem-Keizer’s three-game weekend series at Boise is irrelevant to the playoffs. (I know… strange. Later, I’ll explain why.) A Salem-Keizer win Thursday means a best two-of-three series between Hillsboro and Eugene over the weekend will decide if Eugene or Salem-Keizer gets in. If, under this scenario, Eugene wins two of three from Hillsboro to claim the division, they’re in. If Hillsboro wins two of three to take the division, Salem-Keizer gets in.

3) If Eugene and Hillsboro both win Thursday, Eugene’s magic number to make the playoffs is two. Any combination of Eugene wins and Salem-Keizer losses totaling two over the weekend, and Eugene advances.

4) If Eugene wins and Hillsboro loses Thursday, one Eugene win OR two Salem-Keizer losses over the weekend puts Eugene in the playoffs.

5) If Salem-Keizer wins Thursday, the result of Thursday’s Hillsboro game in Boise is irrelevant to the playoff race. In other words, if Salem-Keizer wins Thursday, it’s a best two-of-three between Eugene and Hillsboro over the weekend, regardless of whether Hillsboro wins or loses tonight.

So, just how did I come to all these conclusions? I had to break it up into the four possible scenarios for the results in Thursday’s games:

1) Hillsboro beats Boise, Eugene beats Salem-Keizer
2) Hillsboro beats Boise, Salem-Keizer beats Eugene
3) Boise beats Hillsboro, Eugene beats Salem-Keizer
4) Boise beats Hillsboro, Salem-Keizer beats Eugene

And I then analyzed each scenario from there.

Here are the current standings entering Thursday’s games:

            2nd half           Overall
.           W        L          W        L
EUG    20        14        37        35
HIL      19        15        41        31
S-K     17        17        37        35

SCENARIO ONE: Hillsboro and Eugene both win Thursday:

Standings after Thursday’s games:

            2nd half           Overall
.          W        L          W        L
EUG    21        14        38        35
HIL      20        15
S-K     17        18        37        36

— Salem-Keizer would be eliminated from division contention (4 out with 3 left)

— Salem-Keizer would be one game out in the overall standings, and Eugene would hold the tiebreaker (a 5-4 record against Salem-Keizer in the second half). That means Salem-Keizer would have to gain TWO games over the final three days in the overall, AND Hillsboro would have to beat Eugene for the division.

— It’s a best two-of-three between Eugene and Hillsboro for the division title. Eugene would need two wins over weekend to clinch division. If Eugene loses two of three to the Hops, that leaves both at 22-16, and the Hops would be 4-2 against Eugene in the second half, meaning Hillsboro would win the division, and the overall record would come into play. If that’s the case, then Eugene would be 39-37 in the overall, and Salem-Keizer would need to sweep Boise to get to 40-36.

— SO, if Eugene wins 2 of 3, they take the division. If Eugene wins 1 of 3, Salem-Keizer has to sweep. If Eugene wins 0 of 3 — leaving them at 38-38 — Salem-Keizer has to take 2 of 3 to get to 39-37.

— Bottom line: if Eugene and Hillsboro both win tonight, Eugene’s magic number to make the playoffs is two. Any combination of Eugene wins and Salem-Keizer losses totaling two over the weekend, and Eugene advances.

SCENARIO TWO: If Hillsboro and Salem-Keizer both win Thursday:

Standings after Thursday’s games:

            2nd half           Overall
.           W        L          W        L
EUG    20        15        37        36
HIL      20        15
S-K     18        17        38        35

— Salem-Keizer would be two out in the division race with three to play, but would be eliminated from the division race because the most wins they could get would be 21, and either Hillsboro or Eugene would get to at least 22.

— Salem-Keizer would be one game up in the overall standings, but in reality two games up, because they would hold the tiebreaker (a 5-4 record against Eugene in the second half).

— It’s still a best two-of-three between Eugene and Hillsboro for the division title. If Eugene wins twice, they’re in.

— If Eugene loses 2 of 3, they’re at 38-38 in the overall, and Salem-Keizer is automatically in, even if they lose all three remaining games. (Three losses for Salem-Keizer would leave them also at 38-38, and they would hold the tiebreaker.)

— SO, under this scenario, the series between Salem-Keizer and Boise is irrelevant. If Eugene takes 2 of 3 from Hillsboro to win the division, they’re in. If the Hops take 2 of 3 to win the division, Salem-Keizer is in. Weird.

SCENARIO THREE: IF Hillsboro loses and Eugene wins on Thursday:

Standings after Thursday’s games:

            2nd half           Overall
.           W        L          W        L
EUG    21        14        38        35
HIL      19        16
S-K     17        18        37        36

— Salem-Keizer would be eliminated from division contention (4 out with 3 left)

— Salem-Keizer would be one game out in the overall standings, and Eugene would hold the tiebreaker (a 5-4 record against Salem-Keizer in the second half). That means Salem-Keizer would have to gain TWO games over the final three days in the overall, AND Hillsboro would have to beat Eugene for the division.

— Eugene would need to win just one game over the weekend to clinch the division. Hillsboro would need to sweep to claim the division.

— If Eugene loses all three to Hillsboro, Hillsboro wins the division and Eugene is 38-38 in the overall. Salem-Keizer would need to win two of three from Boise to get to 39-37 and win the overall.

— SO, under this scenario, one Eugene win OR two Salem-Keizer losses puts Eugene in the playoffs.

SCENARIO FOUR: IF Hillsboro loses and Salem-Keizer wins on Thursday:

Standings after Thursday’s games:

            2nd half           Overall
.           W        L          W        L
EUG    20        15        37        36
HIL      19        16
S-K     18        17        38        35

— Salem-Keizer is eliminated from the division. Why? The best they could do over the weekend, if they swept Boise, would be 21-17, and a tie for the division title with both Hillsboro and Eugene, if Hillsboro wins 2 of 3 from Eugene, putting both also at 21-17. Under this scenario, Hillsboro would be division champs, because their record in 2nd-half head-to-head meetings with Salem-Keizer and Eugene would be 9-5 (Salem-Keizer would be 8-9, and Eugene would be 6-9).

— It still comes down to a best two-of-three for the division title between Eugene and Hillsboro. If Eugene takes 2 of 3, they obviously finish two games in front. If Hillsboro takes 2 of 3, they finish in a tie with Eugene at 21-17, and Hillsboro would hold the tiebreaker with a 4-2 edge in 2nd-half meetings with Eugene.

— If Eugene loses 2 of 3, they’re at 38-38 in the overall, and Salem-Keizer is automatically in, even if they lose all three remaining games. (Three losses for Salem-Keizer would leave them also at 38-38, and they would hold the tiebreaker.)

— SO, again, under this scenario, the series between Salem-Keizer and Boise is irrelevant. If Eugene takes 2 of 3 from Hillsboro to win the division, they’re in. If the Hops take 2 of 3 to win the division, Salem-Keizer is in. Again, weird.

Whew. Get all that? Good, because my head is still spinning.

Hops Seek 3rd Win in 4 Games Vs. Tri-City

TONIGHT: The Hops seek their third win in four games at home against Tri-City. RHP Tyler Mark looks to rebound from recent struggles.

TONIGHT’S GAMEDAY INFORMATION, including bio information on all Hops players can be found here: http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130614&content_id=50672896&sid=t419&vkey=stats

YESTERDAY: Cody Reed, Ariel Hernandez, newcomer Justin Donatella and Taylor Clarke combined on a two-hit shutout in the Hops’ 3-0 victory at Ron Tonkin Field over Tri-City. Trevor Mitsui homered for the seventh time in his last 10 games, a three-run first-inning shot to right off Adrian DeHorta, which accounted for all three runs in the game.

TONIGHT’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 6:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

LOW-HITTERS: Yesterday’s game was the ninth time in the franchise’s 221 gamesand the fourth time in 65 games in 2015 — that the Hops have held an opponent to two hits or fewer, including the no-hitter by Kyle Schepel (“SKAY-pul”) in Boise on 8/31/13. Hillsboro has had a two-hitter or better against every NWL club except Spokane. The full list:

Date   H/R Opp.   #H  W/L Score
6/22/13 A   Everett  2    L     3-1 (7 inn.)
8/21/13 A   Eugene 2    W   2-1
8/31/13 A   Boise    0    W   5-0
8/13/14 H   Boise    1    W   2-1 (10 inn.)
8/30/14 H   Eugene 2    W   1-0
6/28/15 A   Vanc.    2    L     6-2
7/26/15 H   S-K       2    W   4-3
8/13/15 H   Vanc.    2    W   1-0
8/25/15 H   Tri-City  2    W   3-0

JACKS OR BETTER: The Hops’ first home run this season was a 3-run shot by Fernery Ozuna on 6/19 at Spokane. They didn’t hit another home run with more than one runner on base for exactly two months. Since then, Trevor Mitsui (8/19 at Salem-Keizer), Dansby Swanson (8/20 home vs. Boise) and Mitsui again (8/25 home vs. Tri-City) have hit three-run home runs. The only grand slam in franchise history came 8/11/14 at S-K off the bat of Zach Esquerra.

GOING LONG: Trevor Mitsui has homered 7 times in his last 10 games, after hitting 3 in his first 48 games. He homered in 5 straight games 8/15-8/19 (6 HR total).

Dansby and Hops Look for Second Straight Win Over Tri-City

THE FIRST SINCE WHO? Hops SS Dansby Swanson is the first top-overall pick in the draft to begin his career in the NWL in 27 years. The last? Ken Griffey Jr. with Bellingham in 1987 (54g, .313 with 14 HR as a 17-year-old). Matt Bush of the Padres played 8 games for Eugene in 2004, but he didn’t start his career there.

TONIGHT: Hillsboro faces Tri-City in the 2nd game of the 5-game series, and 5th game of the 8-game homestand.

TONIGHT’S GAMEDAY INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130614&content_id=50672896&sid=t419&vkey=stats

LAST NIGHT: RHP Troy Marks stepped in for a spot start and took a perfect game into the top of the 6th, broken up on an infield hit by Mason Smith. He allowed 3 hits and a run in the 6th, and Hillsboro trailed 1-0 until Grant Heyman’s two-run single in the bottom of the 8th gave the Hops a 2-1 lead. Brody Greer worked a 1-2-3 top of the 9th to seal the win. It snapped Hillsboro’s 4-game losing streak, their longest losing streak in 25 months. Marks’ outing reversed a trend for Hops’ starters: in the previous 5 games, the usually staunch Hops’ starters’ ERA was 10.35. Hillsboro is back in a first-place tie in the 2nd half with Eugene.

TONIGHT’S RADIO PREGAME SHOW BEGINS AT 6:35 ON RIP CITY RADIO 620AM AND http://www.RipCityRadio.com.

PUMPIN’ STRIKES: Tri-City entered last night’s game leading the league in walks drawn with 295, 75 more than the next-closest club. Hillsboro pitching issued no walks last night.

MIT-SEEYA: Hillsboro first baseman Trevor Mitsui homered just three times in the team’s first 48 games. He hit 6 home runs in the team’s 5 games from 8/15-8/19, with homers in each of them. It is the longest such streak in Hops history, and with 9 on the season, Mitsui has set a new Hops single-season record for home runs.

VS. TRI-CITY: Hillsboro is 13-13 all-time against T-C, 7-4 at Ron Tonkin Field. But Tri-City is now a Padres affiliate. Against the previous Padres affiliate, Eugene, Hillsboro went 16-8 in 2013-14. However, even that might not be a fair statistic. With new Pads GM A.J. Preller and new director of player development Sam Geaney, San Diego appears to be placing a higher premium on winning at this level.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: The Hops are 19-6 in one-run games in 2015. They were 18-10 in 2014, 13-14 in 2013 (50-30 all-time).

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