Hops drop six to Vancouver
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
That's an adage the Hillsboro Hops will have to take to heart over their four-day break and upon their return to Hillsboro after dropping six straight games to the Vancouver Canadians this past week.
The Hops batted just .158 as a team against the home Canadians and had a 7.69 ERA with 34 walks. Manager Vince Harrison wasn't pleased with the outcome, but he said the All-Star Break might be just what the team needs to reset after what could only be described as a dismal six days north of the border.
"We failed in every aspect at all the wrong times," Harrison said. "Literally everything that could go against you or could go wrong did. It was a bad thing and not fun to watch, but now the guys get a few days off, and hopefully they can step away, clear their heads, physically and mentally recover and get ready to get back after it at the end of the week."
Harrison was noticeably disappointed in what had unfolded, and he and his staff addressed the team regarding what they felt was an approach unbecoming of professional ballplayers.
"We definitely addressed them," the manager said. "We talked to them about when you get to the field, you're clocking in and need to treat it like a job. You get paid to play, and not doing your job is unacceptable. Making a physical mistake is going to happen, but mental mistakes can be avoided, and we don't want guys to relax and settle. We need to hold our standard high."
In the wake of their week of futility, Hillsboro dropped to 8-13 in the season's second half, six and a half games behind first-place Vancouver and tied with this week's opponent, Tri-City, for last place in the Northwest League.
Relief pitcher Kyle Backhus and infielder Ryan Bliss were a couple of bright spots in an otherwise forgettable week, with Backhus appearing in two games and allowing just a single hit while striking out five in two innings of work. The 6-foot-4 reliever has allowed just one earned run in the last week while striking out 11 and walking one.
Bliss, a second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Auburn, struggled mightily to start the season and is batting just .190 for the year, but he has cranked things up of late, batting .266 with four home runs over the last 30 days. He hit .280 with two homers this past week versus the Canadians.
Vancouver hit .254 as a team against the Hops, had a .497 slugging percentage and an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) of .889.
In addition, Canadians pitchers tallied a 2.00 ERA versus Hillsboro and allowed just 29 Hops hits over the course of the six-game series.
In all, six Vancouver hitters batted over .304 for the six games, including shortstop Leo Jimenez, who finished the series 8-for-20 with a home run, two triples, a double and eight RBIs.
Jimenez tallied an .800 slugging percentage and a whopping 1.336 OPS, and was one of five Vancouver players who had an OPS over 1.066 in the series.
Harrison is using his time off over the All-Star Break to head home to Cincinnati to spend time with his family. He said the players can use their time however they like. Some guys stayed in Canada to relax a bit, while others headed back to Hillsboro or went home for a few days.
The manager said he hopes they'll use the time to refresh both their bodies and minds, and he is confident they will. But he reiterated the importance of coming back with the proper energy to get things turned around for the final quarter of the season.
"We had a couple players speak up, and I think the message was well-received," Harrison said. "Hopefully these next couple of days will give them a chance to refresh and come back with some better energy."
Arizona Diamondbacks 2021 first-round pick Jordan Lawlar, who joined the team two weeks ago, didn't travel with the team to Vancouver due to Canada's COVID-19 restrictions. He spent three games in Visalia before heading to Los Angeles for the MLB Futures Game this past Saturday.
Harrison said Lawlar will be rejoining the Hops in Hillsboro for their three-game series with Tri-City beginning Friday, July 22.
Last week's results:
Vancouver 10, Hillsboro 3
Vancouver 4, Hillsboro 2
Vancouver 7, Hillsboro 6
Vancouver 2, Hillsboro 1
Vancouver 12, Hillsboro 2
Vancouver 8, Hillsboro 2
Hops reliever Kyle Backhus had two appearances versus Vancouver, allowing no earned runs on one hit while striking out five in two innings of work.
Hops infielder Ryan Bliss batted .280 with two home runs in six games versus the Canadians, and is batting .267 with three homers in the last two weeks.
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