Seven games in six days — that's what the Hillsboro Hops faced this past week when the Tri-City Dust Devils came to town.
But with some major league talent behind the plate, and some major league effort on the mound, the hometown Hops took four of those seven games from the visiting Devils and secured their first winning month of the 2021 season.
"It was a pretty long week when you put all of the stuff in perspective, and all the things that happened," Hops manager Vince Harrison said. "But I thought we responded pretty well and there were a lot of things about this week that were fun."
Westview High School graduate and Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly spent three days in Hillsboro rehabbing a fractured wrist this past week and suited up twice for the Hops, going 2-for-7 with two runs scored before heading back to the major league club.
Before leaving Hillsboro, the 27-year-old spoke to what the moment meant to him, being able to play in his hometown.
"It's incredible," Kelly said. "Getting drafted in 2012 and being with the Cardinals, and being on the East Coast and Midwest, I haven't really had a chance to come up here.
"Once I got hurt and got the opportunity to come play for the Hops, it's probably one of my best baseball moments to be in front of family and friends. It's cool to be back in the Northwest."
Kelly's presence didn't amount to much on the field in the week's first game, a 6-1 loss, but it proved invaluable off of it, according to Harrison, who said it's always good to have a major league presence around when developing up-and-coming talent.
Hillsboro then won three straight games, thanks in part to some impressive pitching and a red-hot Eduardo Diaz, who hit .391 with three home runs and seven RBI over six games.
Diaz has recovered from a slow start to the season to raise his batting average to .224. Harrison said he thinks the outfielder is starting to get his confidence back, after he was hit in the face with a pitch near the end of spring training.
"I can only imagine what that did to him psychologically," Harrison said. "But what you're seeing over the last couple of weeks, that's the dude I've seen since 2019. I just love where he's at, and I think his confidence is just going to continue to grow."
Starting pitcher Drey Jameson continued his quality work on the mound, throwing seven innings in a 5-2 win in the first of two games July 30, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out six. Jameson has been on fire in his last 30 days, allowing just six earned runs in 28.1 innings pitched, while striking out 35 and walking only five.
As a result of his recent performance, Jameson was promoted to the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate in Amarillo.
Harrison said Jameson's success comes as no surprise, but he also pointed out that despite his talent, he really has had to work to get to this point.
"Drey's arm talent is off the charts, but he's had to learn how to put that talent to work," Harrison said. "When you see what he's done, you realize how much he's grown and how good he can someday be."
The Major League Baseball trade deadline was last Friday, and while the date looms large for major league players whose futures can be directly affected, Harrison said that few understand how that similarly affects players at the minor league level.
Often MLB deals include minor league players as compensation, and while it may not be at the forefront of the players and coaching staff's minds, the Hops manager said it's not often far from his.
"When I was in Jackson in 2018, we lost almost our whole bullpen at the trade deadline, and my brother was part of a trade deadline deal in 2009 and this year," Harrison said, referring to his brother, major league infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison, who was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Oakland Athletics this past Friday, July 30. "So for me, it's at the forefront, because I've experienced it firsthand."
Harrison added, however, that players at the lower levels need to understand that everything they do here is an audition for not only the Diamondbacks, but potentially for other teams who could deal for them in the future.
"The whole point is there's scouts out there, and there's other teams that look at our guys and may see value for their organization," the manager said. "So, I tell them to keep that in mind and use it as motivation.
"The idea is to succeed here, and that's what we hope for, but things can change, and you always want to be working."
Everett 51 -26
Last week's scores
Tri-City 6, Hillsboro 1
Hillsboro 10, Tri-City 2
Hillsboro 6, Tri-City 1
Hillsboro 5, Tri-City 2
Tri-City 7, Hillsboro 1
Tri-City 8, Hillsboro 7
Hillsboro 4, Tri-City 1
CF Eduardo Diaz defined hot against Tri-City, batting .391 with three home runs and seven RBI, while stealing three bases over six games.
1B Spencer Brickhouse, despite striking out in nearly half of his at-bats last week, hit .313 while swatting two homers and driving-in three runs.
RP Kyler Stout appeared in two games, allowing no hits while striking out four in two innings pitched.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.