Hops' slow start is part of the process
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
The Hillsboro Hops' struggles continued this past week, dropping four of six games to the Vancouver Canadians. But while a far cry from where they'd like to be, and with a record of 7-11 heading into this week's series on the road, manager Vince Harrison believes that this is just a minor hiccup in a 120-game season.
"Guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform and that's natural," Harrison said. "But this is a different level for most of these guys and we talk to them about continuing to work, being coachable and allowing everybody to help them through the process.
"It's a long season, and the next day is just another opportunity to get better."
Offensively, it's been a slow start for the Hops, who rank at or near the bottom of the High-A West league in batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging).
Harrison acknowledges the struggles, but he said Monday, May 24, that he isn't concerned, citing the limited sample size and relative youth of his squad as reasons for the somewhat limited results.
"It's going to come," the manager said. "In the grand scheme of things, we're not even 20 games in, so in the big picture, we're just scratching the surface. We generally look at things at around 100 at-bats, and we're only 50 at-bats in, but these are all learning opportunities and will help them down the road."
The offense did get a figurative shot in the arm this past week when fan favorite Andy Yerzy returned to Hillsboro after being called up from Low-A Visalia on May 20. Yerzy, a catcher and first baseman, wasted little time making his presence felt, hitting a home run in his first game back. The 22-year-old appeared in four games and tallied four hits with two home runs and three RBIs during the series against the Canadians.
Yerzy was with the Hops during both the 2018 and 2019 seasons when the team was at the Short Season Class-A level. Thanks to his longevity in Hillsboro, he leads the franchise in games played (126), at-bats (471), plate appearances (547), hits (122), home runs (14), RBIs (68) and walks (65). He was also responsible for one of the franchise's most dramatic moments, a walk-off two-run home run in Game 1 of the 2019 Northwest League Championship Series.
The Toronto native struggled a bit in 2019, jumping between Class-A Kane County and Hillsboro, but he has shown signs early this season of the potential that made him the Diamondbacks' second-round draft pick in 2016. Harrison said he's not concerned at all about Yerzy's maturation, and in fact is excited about what he brings to the table for the Hops and the organization.
"He was with me in Kane County in 2019, and sure, if you look at the stats, you saw a guy with a low average and not much power," Harrison said. "But I saw a guy who battled in the middle of my lineup, caught and played first base, was a great teammate and did things the right way. He's one of those guys that I can see it happening for, and he's showing you bright spots. Once he puts it all together, I could see him taking off really fast."
Hillsboro travels to Pasco, Washington, this week to play the Tri-City Dust Devils for the first time since the two teams met in the championship series more than a year and a half ago. Harrison hopes that is where things start to click offensively for the team, but he has little doubt that it's ultimately not a matter of "if," but rather "when," for a group of guys still getting their feet wet at the High-A level.
"I think you're going to see guys continue to grow and get better," he said. "These are talented guys, but it's not just about winning games — it's also about development. We'll keep giving these guys opportunities, and when we have everyone moving in the same direction, we'll work through things and start to win some of those close games."
As for the Canadians, they will stay in Hillsboro for a third straight week. After playing as the "away team" in their series against the Hops, they play host to the Everett AquaSox for a six-game series beginning Tuesday, May 25.
The Canadians and AquaSox come into this week's series in a three-way tie for the best record in the High-A West league at 12-6, with the Eugene Emeralds rounding out the trio.
Series in review
May 18: Vancouver 13, Hillsboro 4
May 19: Vancouver 6, Hillsboro 1
May 20: Vancouver 2, Hillsboro 1
May 21: Vancouver 3, Hillsboro 4
May 22: Vancouver 3, Hillsboro 8
May 23: Vancouver 5, Hillsboro 4
Andy Yerzy had four hits, including two home runs, and four RBI in four games.
Tra Holmes was 4-13 with two stolen bases in four games.
Matt Tabor allowed one earned runs on four hits, with four strikeouts in six innings pitched last week.
Drey Jameson threw six innings on May 23, allowing two earned runs on three hits, while striking out six and walking none.
Spencer Horwitz reached base in 14 of 23 plate appearances versus Hillsboro, scoring three runs to lead the Canadians on May 23.
Cameron Eden hit safely in each of the six games against Hillsboro, including a home run, and stole four bases.
Paxton Schultz picked up the win in the May 23 rubber game with six two-hit innings, striking out five.
C.J. Van Eyk struck out nine while allowing just one run over six innings on May 20, also giving up just two hits.
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