HILLSBORO, ORE.- The Hillsboro Hops hope their postseason hopes don't come down to two bad bullpen innings in two possibly gamechanging rubber matches.
A bout of wildness in the ninth inning of game three cost the Hops (19-13 second half, 30-40 overall) a chance to win their series against Salem-Keizer two weeks ago. Monday night it was a slippery stretch of the seventh, when the visiting Boise Hawks (19-13, 40-30) parlayed two walks, a hit batter, a Baltimore chop infield hit and a throwing error into three runs to come from behind and beat the Hops 4-3, taking their critical three-game series two games to one.
That two-game swing now has the Hops in a three-way tie for first in the NWL South Division with just six games remaining in the season instead of holding a two game lead over their closest pursuers. And with the other two teams, Boise and Salem-Keizer, playing each other this week, the Hops will have little chance of gaining ground before wrapping up the season with a crucial road set at Boise this weekend.
The Hops had a 3-1 lead going into the seventh inning in a game that was delayed nearly an hour by rain and halted on three other occasions, twice for field maintenance and once after home plate umpire Brandon Butler was hit by a baseball. With one out, Joimer Camacho (3-3), who had retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced since coming on in relief to start the fourth inning, walked David Bote on a full count pitch. After hitting Lance Rymel on the shoulder on a 2-1 slider, Camacho missed the plate on four straight pitches to Carlos Penalver to load the bases. Jose Jose took over and got Shawon Dunston to hit the ball on the ground, unfortunately straight down off the plate. The high hop soared over the mound and allowed the speedy Dunston to easily race to first as Bote crossed the plate to make it 3-2 Hillsboro. Danny Lockhart followed with a grounder outside of first. Hops' first baseman Daniel Palka tried to initiate a double play, but threw just wide of shortstop Ryan Gebhardt at the bag at second, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score. Jose got Kevin Encarnacion to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play one batter too late.
The Hawks bullpen was stout after starter Jose Rosario was shaky. Rosario surrendered five hits and three earned runs before rain stopped the game after the third inning. After a Yogey Perez-Ramos ground rule double to right field in the third, George Roberts delivered his second RBI single of the game and Palka followed with a triple over the head of Encarnacion in center field to plate Roberts, giving the Hops a 3-0 lead.
Hops starter Austin Platt countered with three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and no walks with a strikeout. Platt has now pitched 15 consecutive scoreless innings since surrendering a pair of early home runs in a loss at Spokane.
Camacho came on to start the fourth and surrendered a solo home run to right from Encarnacion, the first batter he faced, before settling into a groove that carried into the seventh.
Boise reliver Jasvir Rakkar fanned six Hillsboro batters over a scoreless stretch of three innings to earn the win. Logier Padron faed the minimum over his two innings with two strikeouts and a walk and Eddie Orozco struck out the side in the ninth for his second save of the series, giving up only an infield hit to Gebhardt with two outs.
Elvin Soto had two hits for the Hops and Penalver was 2-for-2 with a pair of walks, scoring the winning run for the Hawks.
After a day off Tuesday in the NWL, the Hops entertain the Eugene Emeralds in their final home series of the regular season. Pregame airtime for all three games of the series is 6:35 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio 620 AM and foxsportsradio620.com with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.