Any hope of Hillsboro making the 2021 postseason were extinguished this past week in Spokane, as the visiting Hops were swept by the home Indians.
After the series' initial game was postponed due to smoke from nearby wildfires, the home team themselves caught fire en route to six straight wins over the visiting Hops.
Hillsboro manager Vince Harrison was quick to applaud Spokane's effort, noting the quality manner in which they're going about their business. But just as quickly, he pointed to a series of self-inflicted wounds that ultimately led to the Hops' week of misery.
"We just had some sloppy games," Harrison said, "defensive miscues that led to extra outs, and it was just kind of like a snowball that just kept getting bigger and bigger."
The Hops committed 17 errors over the six-game set, including six in the first of two games Sunday, Aug. 22, a 9-2 loss in the makeup game from Aug. 17. Harrison said that some of that can be attributed to happenstance, but that most is a combination of ever-changing chemistry and a simple lack of concentration.
"We've just got to play better," the manager said. "It just comes down to concentration. We hold these guys to a high standard and you've got to make plays when you should, so regardless of our changing personnel, these things affect the outcome of games and we've just got to be better."
The Hops have sent more than a handful of players to Double-A Amarillo over the past month or two, and as a result, they have replaced more accomplished players with younger, inexperienced ones. Four players — Collin Sullivan, Elian Miranda, Ronny Simon and Elijah Green — were called up from Low-A Visalia this past week, and Harrison acknowledged that due to the new, smaller, more condensed minor league model, the leap to Hillsboro is bigger and the learning curve is steeper for players getting their first High-A action.
"Looking at our clubhouse right now, I'd say more than half of these guys were in Visalia to start the year," Harrison said. "So, you're talking about a whole new vibe and a big step from where they were to being here. But at the end of the day, it's our job to prepare these guys to be pros and to put a team on the field that got a chance to be competitive."
Harrison has coached throughout the Diamondbacks organization since signing with the club in 2013, and while familiar with some of the players coming to Hillsboro from lower ranks in the organization, he too is often getting his first look at guys when they join the Hops. Nonetheless, he said it's up to the coaching staff and player to make that adjustment sooner rather than later.
"Everyone's goal is to be a big-leaguer, and you're not going to get some grace period when you get there to perform," he said. "You've got to be ready to go and accept the challenge, and as coaches, we're doing everything we can to treat them like that."
One bright spot from the past week was the power surge by Hops veteran Andy Yerzy. The 23-year-old catcher/first baseman and former second-round pick batted .353 with five home runs over five games in Spokane, and as a result, he received a promotion to Double-A Amarillo Aug. 23.
Harrison, who managed Yerzy in Single-A Kane County in 2019, said he was excited to tell the fifth-year pro about his promotion, and he's been pleased to see him advance through the organization since being drafted out of a Toronto-area high school in 2016.
"It's been a lot of fun to watch his progression," Harrison said. "To watch him slowly grow, from swinging the bat to his ability to call games from behind the plate, his progression has been amazing. From a teammate standpoint, there aren't many guys better than him, so it's cool to see it happen for him, and I'm really happy to see him doing well."
The Hops return home this week. They're "hosting" their stadium-mates, the Vancouver Canadians, this week. They will host Eugene the following week as part of a two-week homestand as the season winds to a close.
High-A West Standings
Spokane 6, Hillsboro 1
Spokane 4, Hillsboro 3
Spokane 11, Hillsboro 3
Spokane 8, Hillsboro 7
Spokane 8, Hillsboro 6
Spokane 9, Hillsboro 2
C/1B Andy Yerzy hit .353 in five games versus Spokane, while hitting five home runs in just 17 at-bats against the home Indians.
SS Blaze Alexander started all six games for the Hops in Spokane, batting .318 with a home run and five RBI.
P Marcos Tineo threw six innings in his only start last week, allowing one earned run on seven hits, while striking out six and walking two.
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