Hear it: Hops win NWL championship

By now, you’re heard what happened. (And maybe you were among the 3,328 who were there.)

But have you heard what happened?

Update: It’s the Hops vs. Vancouver in the NWL Championship Series

Well, everything is cleared up. Vancouver withstood a Spokane rally to win 5-4 on Thursday night and sweep the North Division series. If the Hops are going to win the Northwest League Championship,  they’ll have to dethrone the three-time defending league champs.

Here is the series schedule:

GAME 1:
Saturday 9/6, 7:05 PM
Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, B.C.
6:35 airtime on Rip City Radio 620 AM and http://www.foxsportsradio620.com

GAME 2:
Sunday 9/7, 5:03 PM
Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, Oregon  (Tickets here.)
4:33 airtime on Rip City Radio 620 AM and http://www.foxsportsradio620.com

Game 3 (if necessary):
Monday 9/8, 7:05 PM
Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, Oregon (Tickets here.)
6:35 airtime on Rip City Radio 620 AM and http://www.foxsportsradio620.com

 

So… WHEN does the NWL Championship Series begin?

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. So I’m here to clear up that confusion.

The Hillsboro Hops are in the Northwest League Championship Series, and will face either Vancouver or Spokane. It’s a best-of-three series — the first team to win two games takes the title.

First, you need to understand this:

No matter what, the Hops’ next HOME game is Sunday, Sept. 7 at 5:03 PM.

Tickets are available here.

But here’s where it gets weird: Sunday might be game one of the NWL Championship Series… or it might be game two. It depends on the opponent.

If Vancouver is the opponent, the series would start Saturday on the road:

Game 1: Saturday 9/6 on ROAD, 7:05 PM at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver
Game 2: Sunday 9/7 at HOME, 5:03 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro
Game 3: Monday 9/8 at HOME, 7:05 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro (if necessary)

If Spokane is the opponent, the series would start Sunday at home:

Game 1: Sunday 9/7 at HOME, 5:03 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro
Game 2: Monday 9/8 at HOME, 7:05 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro
Game 3: Tuesday 9/9 at HOME, 7:05 PM at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro (if necessary)

Yes, that’s right… if Spokane is the opponent, all three games would be played in Hillsboro.

Why, you ask? Well, their ballpark is unavailable to them this weekend, because of something called the Spokane County Interstate Fair.

I assume, if the second scenario unfolds, Spokane would bat last in game one and technically be the “home” team, even though the game would be in Hillsboro.

Got it?

Remember, air times for our pregame shows are 30 minutes before the first pitch, on Rip City Radio 620 AM and www.foxsportsradio620.com.

Vancouver and Spokane play tonight in Spokane. Vancouver leads the series one game to none, and if Vancouver wins tonight, they win the series. If Spokane wins tonight, the third and deciding game of that series would be tomorrow (Friday).

A Few Short Hops at the All-Star Break

Just a few odds and ends as we enter the three-day Northwest League All-Star break:

And then there were five: Of 230 teams in affiliated minor-league baseball (including the Dominican Summer League and the Venezuelan Summer League), the Hops are one of just FIVE not to have lost three games in a row in 2014. The others: the Angels of the Rookie-level Arizona League; and the Cubs, Red Sox and Royals of the Rookie-Level DSL. But wait, you say, many of the clubs have been playing since early April, while the Hops (and the other short-season clubs) have not. True. But the Hops have played 51 games, and all 120 long-season minor-league affiliates had lost three in a row at least once by the time they had played their 51st game. In fact, if you throw in the major-league clubs — making it 260 teams total — only the St. Louis Cardinals are in front of the Hops. They lost three in a row for the first time in their 55th game of the season.

The Hops stand alone: For the first time this year, Hillsboro has the outright season-long best record in the Northwest League. At 31-20, they are one game better than Vancouver.

The chicks are gonna dig this… the Hops fizzled at home last week in an 11-2 loss to Boise on the day power threats Zach Esquerra, Kevin Cron and Stryker Trahan joined the lineup. Since then, however, the Hops took four of five in Spokane, pounding eight home runs (two by Cron, one each by Esquerra and Trahan, as well as two by Pedro Ruiz, one by Grant Heyman and one by Steve Nyisztor). The eight round-trippers is nearly double the amount the Hops had hit in any five-game stretch in their two-year history (they hit five in their final five games of 2013).

… and chicks who are Hops fans will also dig this: When Luke Tendler of Spokane homered in bottom of the first inning on Friday in Spokane, it broke a string where Hops pitchers had gone 550 batters without allowing a HR. That’s 15½ games, fully one-fifth of the season.

Goodbye Mr. Quality: RHP Ryan Doran has been (most deservedly) promoted to long-A South Bend. He made 10 starts this year, going six or more innings, and allowing three or fewer earned runs in nine of the 10, including his final eight starts. (In the other start, he allowed one earned run in 5.2 ip). Dating to last year, he went six or more and allowed 3 or fewer in 12 of 13 starts as a Hop, and in the other he fell one out short. Doran accounts for half of the 20 times this year a Hops starter has gone six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs. Doran will likely replace RHP Brent Jones in South Bend’s rotation; Jones has been placed on the 7-day DL.

He’s in: The Hops’ mascot is in the… uh, Furry Fourteen. Barley has been named by the fans as the best mascot in the Northwest League, and he’s now in the championship round, against 13 other league winners, for the best mascot in minor-league baseball. Vote now, and use these hashtags when you can: #VoteBarley #MascotMania

Northwest League All-Star Game coverage: Want to listen to the Northwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday evening? You can do so online at 95.3 The Score (click on Listen Live at the upper right). First pitch from PK Park in Eugene is set for 7:05 PM (Pacific). Also, @AndrewNemec will be providing updates on Twitter, with a special focus on Hops players.

Upcoming: Beginning Thursday at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, South Division rivals Hillsboro and Eugene meet for just their second series this year, a three-game set. Their first meetings came in the final 3 games of the first half (July 19-21). Hillsboro took the first two games to clinch the South Division 1st-half title, and Eugene salvaged the finale. The Hops and Eugene will meet nine times in the final 27 games this year. The Emeralds enter the series trailing the Hops by two games in the 2nd half.

 

The Hops Pick Up Where They Left Off

How much do the Hops deserve the playoff berth they earned by capturing the first-half South Division flag yesterday?

Consider this: Hillsboro’s horrific start to their inaugural season is well-documented, as they lost 25 of their first 33 games.

But on July 18, 2013, they turned things around. Beginning with that night’s win at home over Spokane, the Hops have the best record in the Northwest League.

Here are the overall standings in the Northwest League for the last 80 games, since 7/18/13:

80-game standings thru 2014-07-20

Stunning turn in the North:

Yesterday, the Spokane Indians were a strike away from celebrating the North Division flag in front of their home fans and securing their first playoff berth since 2010. Spokane led Everett 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning. With two out and a runner at first, Everett’s Corey Simpson fell behind in the count 0-2… and blasted the next pitch over the left-field wall for a 3-2 lead. Everett held on to win, leaving Spokane’s magic number at one.

Since then, Vancouver has won twice at Tri-City—9-0 last night and 10-6 earlier today—putting the Canadians a half-game up on Spokane pending the outcome of Spokane’s first-half finale, tonight at home against Everett. Spokane holds the tiebreaker. If they win, they’re in.

If Spokane loses, Vancouver would secure their fifth-straight playoff berth, and it would be a shocking turn for a Spokane club that began the year 13-2 and had as much as a five-game lead in the North. Just eight days ago, Spokane was 22-8 and had a four-game cushion. Vancouver won eight of their final nine games of the half. Spokane has dropped five of their past seven.

The Indians have to be feeling the pressure heading into this one, and we’ll be paying close attention during our broadcast tonight.

Stones Philosophy, and Notes on My Scorecard

It’s 2:15 PM on Sunday afternoon as I type this from the press box here at PK Park in Eugene, where tonight at 5:00 the Hops and Eugene Emeralds will meet with the first-half pennant hanging in the balance for Hillsboro. I’ve already been here an hour and a half, and if there had been a bus to the ballpark at 9:00 this morning, I would have been on it. There is nothing like pennant-race baseball (even, in this case, in midsummer), and I’m really looking forward to tonight.

As I type, the Rolling Stones are blaring over the loudspeakers.

You can’t always get what you want.

True.

But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.

And what the Hops need is two wins, over the next two days here in Eugene, to secure the first-half flag and a September playoff berth. Or, one win and a Boise loss would do, though I don’t think Hillsboro should expect Boise to lose—they’ve won 14 of their last 18, including six of seven in which the opponent has scored first in every game.

Here are a few notes about tonight:

What’s at stake: A September playoff berth. The Northwest League has two divisions (the North and South) and at the end of the season each division’s first-half champ and second-half champ meet in the best-of-three first round of the playoffs. (If one team wins both halves, they’ll play the team with the next-best record for the entire season.)

It comes down to this: The Hops are in a first-place tie with Boise with two games left for each club. Hillsboro, by virtue of a better record in games within the division (the Hops are 9-7, Boise is 8-8), holds the tiebreaker. The magic number is two — two Hillsboro wins, one win and a Boise loss, or two Boise losses (which is quite unlikely) and the Hops punch their September ticket.

The tables are turned: For the past six days, Boise’s games (all at home) have started almost an hour prior to the Hops’ games, so we’ve often known the Boise result of by the late innings of ours. Tonight, though, it’s different — Hillsboro’s game at Eugene begins at 5:01 PM, approximately 75 minutes before the first pitch in Boise between the Hawks and Salem-Keizer. If the Hops can win, it will apply some pressure on Boise to win to keep their 1st-half playoff hopes alive.

Sweep success? As noted above, the Hops will probably have to sweep Eugene to get this done. It’s a tall order to sweep any team—in 29 previous NWL series dating to the beginning of 2013, Hillsboro has just two series sweeps: last August 21-23 here in Eugene, and the final series of last year, August 31-Sept. 2 in Boise. Hillsboro has won 20 of their last 26 road games dating back to last year.

Runs needed ASAP: Hillsboro’s offense has been struggling of late, especially in key spots. Hillsboro is just 3-for-25 over the last three games with runners in scoring position.

Tonight’s matchups: Righthander Ryan Doran (2-3, 3.09) goes for the Hops. Six times in seven starts he’s gone between six and seven innings, and allowed one, two or three earned runs (and in the other start, he allowed one run in 5.2 innings). Righty Adrian De Horta (1-2, 4.50) takes the hill for Eugene, and it would behoove the Hops to be patient. De Horta has issued 20 walks in 20 innings, including nine bases on balls to the last 21 hitters he’s faced.
In Boise, lefty Tyler Ihrig (4-0, 4.37) goes for the Hawks. He allowed six runs on nine hits over five innings in his last start at home against Spokane (though it doesn’t seem to matter how Boise pitches… they’ve been out-slugging everyone). Right-hander Jose Reyes (2-3, 4.10) is slated to take the hill for Salem-Keizer. Over his last three starts, his ERA is 3.00… and the Hops hope he deals like he did against Hillsboro on Independence Day in Keizer, when he allowed just one unearned run on only one hit in seven innings. Um, good luck against Boise.

Hey, isn’t this fun? I trust you’ll be listening. Airtime today (Sunday) is 4:30 PM Pacific, with first pitch at 5:01, on Rip City Radio 620 AM in Portland, and on the internet at www.foxsportsradio620.com (click on “Listen Live”). Mobile listeners should download the iHeartRadio app.

Determining the Hops’ Weird Magic Number

(Unfamiliar with the term “magic number”? If, say, Team A has a one-game lead on Team B with five games left in the season, and no other team is in the race, Team A’s magic number is five. That means any combination of Team A wins and Team B losses totaling five, and Team A is guaranteed to finish first.)

In a quest to earn their first-ever playoff berth, the Hillsboro Hops have a one-game lead on second-place Boise with five games remaining in the first half.

Here is the schedule over the final five days of the half (all times Pacific):

Thursday:
Spokane at Boise, 6:15 PM
Tri-City at Hillsboro, 7:05 PM

Friday:
Spokane at Boise, 6:15 PM
Tri-City at Hillsboro, 7:05 PM

Saturday:
Salem-Keizer at Boise, 6:15 PM
Hillsboro at Eugene, 7:05 PM

Sunday:
Hillsboro at Eugene, 5:01 PM
Salem-Keizer at Boise, 6:15 PM

Monday (final day of first half):
Salem-Keizer at Boise, 6:15 PM
Hillsboro at Eugene, 7:05 PM

So, just what is the Hops’ magic number, anyway?

Well, it depends. It took me awhile to get my brain wrapped around this — but maybe you’re smarter than I am.

Here it is in a nutshell: if the Hops were to enter the final series (at Eugene beginning Saturday) with a lead in the standings on Boise, then Hillsboro’s current magic number is five. If the Hops were to enter the final series tied with Boise, or trailing in the standings, then Hillsboro’s current magic number is four.

Why? Because if the Hops enter the final series with a lead in the standings, then Boise holds the tiebreaker. If the Hops enter the final series tied or behind in the standings, then Hillsboro holds the tiebreaker.

We’ve been through this before, but here is an explanation of the 1st-half tiebreakers in the Northwest League. If two teams finish tied at the end of the first half, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. If they split their first-half games, the next tiebreaker is their winning percentage within the division. And if that’s tied, the next tiebreaker is runs scored in head-to-head meetings (or run differential if more than two teams are tied).

The Hops and Boise went 3-3 in their head-to-head meetings. Currently, Hillsboro is 8-7 within the division, while Boise is 7-8. And Boise scored more runs in the two teams’ head-to-head meetings, 32-29.

And remember, both teams’ final series (Hillsboro at Eugene, Boise home vs. Salem-Keizer) are in-division series.

If the Hops enter the final series tied or behind in the standings, and then finish in a tie with Boise, Hillsboro would have a better in-division record and would be the first-half champ. If the Hops enter the final series with a lead on Boise, but finish in a tie, then Boise would have an equal or better in-division record and would be the first-half champ.

What this all means is that if the Hops enter their final series on Saturday tied with Boise, or with a one game lead on Boise, they’re in exactly the same place. If they’re tied with Boise entering Saturday, the Hops hold the tiebreaker, and they have to at least match Boise over the final series. If they’re one game up on Boise entering Saturday, Boise holds the tiebreaker, and the Hops have to at least match Boise over the final series.

Which leads us to the oddest part of all this: if the Hops enter Friday night’s homestand finale with a one-game lead, and if Boise wins Friday night, then the outcome of the Hops’ Friday night home game against Tri-City is irrelevant to the 1st-half playoff race! There is no difference between the Hops being one game up or tied in the standings entering Saturday. (If that scenario unfolds, the Hops would still like to win that one, which would strengthen their overall record should Boise win both halves.)

In case you’re wondering, third-place Salem-Keizer still has a shot, though their chances are paper-thin. They’re four games out with five to play, and the Hops (with a 5-4 edge in the season series) hold the two-team tiebreaker over them. So the Hops’ magic number over Salem-Keizer would seem to be one, but not quite: if Hillsboro, Boise and Salem-Keizer were all to finish in a three-way tie, Salem-Keizer would hold the three-team tiebreaker and would win the first half. So the Hops’ magic number over Salem-Keizer is two… unless Boise loses their next two games, which would render a three-way tie impossible, and which makes the Hops’ magic number over Salem-Keizer one.

I hope that makes sense.

And one final note: even teams who are eliminated still have motivation to win over the next five days. If one team wins both halves, that division’s second playoff spot will go to the team with the best overall record for the season.

Why Last Night’s Win was So Big

I’m back. After six days away from the Hops to coach my son’s youth baseball team in the JBO state tournament, I’m rejoining Matt Richert on the air tonight. (6:35 pregame at http://www.foxsportsradio620.com)

It was a huge win for the Hops last night in Keizer. With that victory, Hillsboro remained 2 games up on 2nd-place Boise, and 3rd-place Salem-Keizer fell 4 games out. There are 8 games left in the half. (Remember, with our split-season format, after the games of July 21, 1st-half champions will be declared and playoff spots awarded. On July 22, the 2nd half begins with all teams’ records at 0-0.)

But the win is even bigger, because it helped the Hops strengthen their tiebreakers. The NWL’s 1st-half tiebreakers are as follows: 1) head-to-head record in 1st half; 2) winning percentage within the division; 3) head-to-head average run differential.

– The Hops are 5-4 in the first half vs. Salem-Keizer (with no 1st-half meetings remaining), meaning if those two clubs finish in a tie at the end of the half, the Hops win the 1st half. So Salem-Keizer has to gain 5 games in the standings with 8 games left.

– The Hops are 3-3 vs. Boise (with no 1st-half meetings left); in the event of a tie, it falls to win % within the division. And because of their win last night, the Hops stayed one game up on Boise in THAT category — the Hops are 8-7 vs. the South, while Boise is 7-8. Each club has 3 games left within the division—all next weekend (Hops at Eugene, Boise home vs. S-K). FYI, Boise scored more runs in head-to-head meetings, so if they finish in a tie in the standings AND in-division record, Boise would earn the playoff spot.

Other notes…

THIRTY IN:
The Hops have played 30 games in 2014—all vs. four clubs: 10 games vs. Everett, 9 vs. Salem-Keizer, 6 v s. Boise and 5 vs. Vancouver. They’ll play their next eight games against teams they have not previously faced—five at home vs. Tri-City, then three at Eugene to finish the first half. (The only remaining team is Spokane, and the Hops will face them for the first time well into the second half, on July 30th).

STAYING LATE:
At 3:22, yesterday’s game vs. Salem-Keizer was 7 minutes longer than the next-longest Hops game this year, and 20 minutes longer than the only extra-inning game the Hops have played this year, a 10-inning win at home over Everett on June 29th.

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE:
The Hops racked up their 18th win last night. In their inaugural season of 2013, the Hops didn’t collect their 18th win until August 8th. And the Hops still have the best record in the Northwest League since 7/18/13, 44-29. During that span, the Hops are 16-11 in one-run games, and 25-15 in 1- or 2-run games.

99 Down: Tonight is the 100th Game in Hops History

Tonight’s game at Salem-Keizer marks the 100th game in Hops’ franchise history. (Airtime 4:40 PM Pacific on Rip City Radio 620 AM and http://www.foxsportsradio620.com). Here are a few notes on the first 99…

– The first game in franchise history was also at Salem-Keizer, on June 14, 2013, a 3-2 Hops loss.

– Hillsboro is 48-51 all-time

The Hops lost 25 of their first 33, but since then (7/18/13) are 40-26, best in the Northwest League in that span

– The Hops are 24-27 at home, 24-24 on the road

– The Hops are 8-3 in extra-inning games, 6-0 home

– 66 players have seen action in a Hops uniform (35 pitchers, 31 position players)

Most games played: Taylor Ratliff 76, Ryan Gebhardt 69, Yogey Perez-Ramos 67, Jordan Parr 65, George Roberts 64, Elvin Soto 59

– Hillsboro has hit 37 home runs and allowed 35

Hops’ HR tally: 17 solo, 12 2-run HR, 8 3-r HR (The Hops’ last 3 round-trippers have been 3-run homers, and all have made the difference in wins: Justin Gonzalez on 6/25 at home vs. Vancouver, Grant Heyman on 6/28 at Boise, and Gonzalez again on 7/3 at home vs Everett)

– The Hops have never had a grand slam

– … but they DID have a no-hitter, by Kyle Schepel (“SKAY-pul”), last 8/31 in Boise, the first 9-inn CG no-hitter in the NWL in 20 seasons

– 38 of the 99 have been decided by 1 run, most in the NWL (Everett 34)

– 55 of the 99 have been decided by 1 or 2 runs, most in the NWL (Vancouver and Tri-City, 51)

– Ron Tonkin Field has been sold out 7 times in 51 games (4 in 2013, already 3 in 2014)

A first-time-ever ending?

Wow. What an amazing way to end last night’s game. Hundreds of thousands of games in professional baseball history, and that has to be the first 6-4-2-6 game-ending double-play ever. Doesn’t it?

HOPPIN’ WITH EXCITEMENT: Nine of the Hops’ 20 games have been decided by one run, tied with Salem-Keizer & Everett for most in the NWL (Hillsboro is 6-3 in those games and has the most one-run wins). 14 of the Hops’ 20 games have been decided by 1 or 2 runs, the most in the NWL (Hillsboro is 9-5 in those games). In 2013, the Hops led the NWL in 1-run games with 27 (13-14).

POWER SUPPLY? The Hops have hit 7 HR in 20 games, 2nd-fewest in the NWL (Vancouver has 3). With Todd Glaesmann‘s promotion to AA Mobile a week ago, only two current Hops have gone yard: SS Justin Gonzalez (3) and LF Grant Heyman (2).

RUN DIFFERENTIAL: It’s no surprise that Spokane, whose 15-5 record is the best in the NWL, also has the best run differential at +43 (108 runs scored/65 against). Vancouver is second at +22 (94/72) and the Hops are third at +13 (82/69). Boise would seem to be better than their 9-11 record, with a run differential of +10 (120/110).

PITCHING AND DEFENSE: The Hops’ 3.07 ERA is third in the league, but their starters ERA is just 2.30 (the relievers’ ERA is 4.06). The Hops’ 19 errors are fewest in the NWL, with more than ¼ of those (5) coming in Monday night’s loss to Everett.

ECONOMY: Everett has scored their last 12 runs (over three games) on six swings: on Tuesday, they had a solo HR from Wilton Martinez, then three runs came home in the 9th on a single by Chris Mariscal and an error on the play; on Wednesday, their lone run came on a sac fly by Taylor Smart; and last night, they had a 3-run triple by Nelson Ward, a solo HR by Adam Martin, and a 3-run home run by Corey Simpson.

See today’s full Hillsboro Hops Gameday Information here.

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