The Hillsboro Hops didn't start well, but they finished exceptionally, taking the final four of their six-game series with the Vancouver Canadians en route to their second straight High-A West series win.
The surging Hops have now won 20 of their last 35 games and haven't lost a series since dropping four of six to the last-place Tri-City Dust Devils nearly a month ago.
Hillsboro manager Vince Harrison said he's been pleased with the team's heightened performance over the past month despite a fair amount of roster turnover, with more than a handful of players being promoted to Double-A.
He attributes the Hops' recent run of success less to drastic measures and more to execution.
"I think it's just a combination of things that have happened over the past couple of weeks," Harrison said. "You start finding more productive at-bats, pitchers are getting deeper into games — it's just the little things that start adding up and equaling wins."
It didn't start that way this past week. Hillsboro dropped the first two of the series with Vancouver, 5-2 and 3-2, but rebounded with a 5-1 win Thursday, Aug. 5, thanks to an outstanding bullpen game that featured five Hops pitchers — none of which threw more than two innings — allowing just three hits while striking out eight and walking two.
A day later, the home team scored five unanswered runs over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings of a 5-3 win, aided by a strong relief performance from Liu Fuenmayor, who struck out all four of the batters he faced.
And on Aug. 7, Brandon Pfaadt continued his impressive run, allowing one earned run on two hits, while striking out 11 and walking two on his way to leading the Hops to a 2-1 win.
Pfaadt has been impressive since July 1, accruing a 3.55 ERA while striking out 55 and walking just 13. Harrison said his performance hasn't gone unnoticed by him, and likely not by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
While it would still be a surprise to see Pfaadt or any other prospect rise from playing at the High-A level in August to the major leagues by the end of September, Harrison thinks the Diamondbacks may be calling for the first-year pro sooner rather than later. A move up to Double-A Amarillo is certainly not out of the question.
"We give out our little Diamondbacks chain after games to the guys that have a great game and make a difference, and with him, I could literally give this to him every time," the manager said. "Selfishly, I want him here, but I feel like I'm just waiting on a call for him (for promotion)."
Other individuals that stepped-up this week included relatively new Hop Danny Oriente. The left fielder batted .500 over four games against Vancouver, raising his average to .423 during his two weeks with the Hops. Additionally, Hillsboro catcher Andy Yerzy continues to quietly raise his stock — at least statistically — on the heels of the 23-year-old former second-round pick's 7-for-17, 7-RBI performance this past week.
The longest-tenured Hop in franchise history, Yerzy is batting just .228 on the season, but he has been batting nearly .270 over the last month and is third on the team with eight home runs.
Harrison said the the fifth-year pro is coming into his own as a player.
"I think you're starting to see some of the things the organization and other folks knew he could be," Harrison said of Yerzy. "Sometimes we want it to happen faster for guys, but he's still relatively young, and a lot of things are starting to come together for him."
With just 36 regular season games remaining, the Hops are nearing the final stretch. With a nonconventional playoff format this season as the result of the pandemic, the league will pit the top two regular-season teams against one another in the postseason. At present, that would be first-place Everett versus second-place Eugene.
The Hops sit in fourth place, nine games behind the Emeralds for second, but Harrison hasn't given up on his team's chances of making a run and spoke to their mindset as the season begins to wind down.
"It's definitely business as usual, but we also want to help prepare these guys to be big leaguers," Harrison said. "Part of that is winning, so we'll go out every week and try to win our series and build off of that. I think we have 12 games left with Eugene, and that's who we're chasing, so we'll take it one game at a time and see what happens."
Harrison said no Hops were promoted this week, but he did disclose that 2020 first-round pick Slade Cecconi was moved to the 60-day injured list, meaning his season is over. The manager said he didn't suffer a specific injury but has been dealing with a sore shoulder, and out of an abundance of caution was shut down for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story was published under a headline that misspelled "Vancouver." The headline has been corrected.
Current High-A West Standings
Last week's scores…
Vancouver 5, Hillsboro 2
Vancouver 3, Hillsboro 2
Hillsboro 5, Vancouver 1
Hillsboro 5, Vancouver 3
Hillsboro 2, Vancouver 1
Hillsboro 7, Vancouver 5
DH Andy Yerzy tallied seven hits while batting .412 over five games against Vancouver. The Toronto native also added a home run, two doubles and six RBI, while drawing three walks.
LF Danny Oriente batted .500 over four games versus the Canadians, with a triple and three runs scored. Oriente finished the week with a 1.205 OPS.
P Brandon Pfaadt tallied a win in Saturday's game against Vancouver, allowing just one earned run on two hits, while striking out 11 over seven innings of work.
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