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By Maverick Pallack/Portland Tribune/Five-run first inning fuels getaway victory over Tri-City; Hillsboro heads to Eugene one game up on Emeralds

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro infielder Eddie Hernandez is greeted at first base with manager Javier Colina after a hit in the Hops' 6-4 win Monday against Tri-City at Ron Tonkin Field.HILLSBORO — The Hillsboro Hops, in the midst of a postseason push, closed out an up-and-down six-game homestand with a 6-4 win Tuesday over the Tri-City Dust Devils.

Fueled by a five-run first inning, the Hops were able to win their second straight game against the Dust Devils to win the series 2-1.

With Eugene's 10th-inning, 5-4 walk-off loss at Spokane, Hillsboro took sole possession of first place in the Single-A Northwest League South Division.

Spokane was trailing 4-2 and down to its final strike, but tied the game with a two-run home run by Cristian Inoa. The Indians won on a single by Luis Asuncion.

Hillsboro will no longer have to scoreboard-watch Emeralds games. The Hops (15-10) and Eugene (14-11) will kick off a huge, three-game series in Eugene at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Hillsboro duo of Conor Grammes and All-Star Marcos Tineo will team up on the mound for the series opener.

On Monday, three singles, two walks and a triple off Tri-City starter Jason Reynolds gave the Hops a lead they would not relinquish.

Left-handed hitters Andy Yerzy and Dominic Canzone beat the shift for RBI singles and Eddie Hernandez came away with a two-run triple to put an exclamation point on the five-run first inning.

"Early in the game, we were aggressive," Hillsboro manager Javier Colina said. "I know (Reynolds) was throwing a lot of fastballs. He left off-speed up in the zone, and we took advantage of that early."

Hillsboro added a run in the second, when Jorge Barrosa singled Ricky Martinez home.

The Hops managed just two more hits as the Tri-City bullpen dominated and its lineup mounted a comeback attempt.

Although his team was shutout over the final six innings, Colina was happy with the offense's performance.

"It's nothing to worry about," Colina said. "We did what we were supposed to do. We were facing good relievers."

Reliever Yan Sanchez, who made the switch from the infield to the mound this season, allowed two singles, a hit-by-pitch and a walk before being replaced by Eduardo Herrera.

"It was a tough outing for (Sanchez), but he got experience," Colina said. "He's going to be good. He needs to continue to work hard, and in the end he'll be my guy, too."

Herrera was able to limit the damage to two runs and send the game into the bottom of the eighth with Hillsboro still leading 6-4.

He retook the mound in the ninth and was able to earn his sixth save of the season despite an error by Liover Peguero and a hit-by-pitch.

"He's a horse," Colina said. "He throws gas. He's my closer. I have trust in him."

Former University of Oregon pitcher Ryne Nelson received the start, and although he struggled with control (three walks), he pitched two scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.32.

"He didn't have his best stuff. He had a problem with command, but he got the job done," Colina said. "He was aggressive and competed. That's what we're looking for as a staff. … He made good pitches in the right moment."

Nelson was relieved by piggyback Wilfry Cruz (4-2), who allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out five over four innings. Justin Garcia followed that with a perfect, two-strikeout seventh inning.

After the Eugene series, the Hops will travel to Spokane and then get their first off day in 20 days on Aug. 27. They will play host to Boise for the final home series of the regular season, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28.

"I told my guys, 'We're going to go one game at a time,'" Colina said. "We're not going to worry about the other teams. We just need to compete for 27 outs. … In the end, the result will be there."

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