A couple of balls to the backstop provided enough cushion for the Tri-City Dust Devils to win a pretty good pitchers duel.
Prized Cuban prospect Osvaldo Hernandez threw six strong innings and the Tri-City bullpen mopped up with three scoreless as the Dust Devils (9-7 second half, 29-25 overall) defeated the Hillsboro Hops 3-1 Friday night at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington.
Hillsboro pitcher Tyler Badamo, making his third start for the Hops (8-8, 30-24), pitched well over six innings, but a few that got away proved costly.
Tri-City scored its first run after leadoff batter Robbie Podorsky, the NCAA Division I leader in stolen bases, reached base after a missed third strike got past catcher Daulton Varsho. Varsho got to the ball but bobbled it just outside the dirt cutout, giving the speedy Podorsky enough time to reach first. Another pitch to the backstop sent Podorsky to second and two groundouts brought him home for a 1-0 lead.
The Dust Devils loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning before Badamo's third wild pitch sent Chandler Seagle home with the second run of the game.
That would be enough as it turned out. Hernandez (2-2) struck out six batters without a walk, allowing four hits over six innings to record his second professional win. The 19-year-old from Havana signed with the Padres for a reported $2.5 million in March and was making his first start after returning from a two-game rehab stint in the Arizona League.
The Hops only run came in the fifth inning when Varsho singled up the middle and stole second base, where a scary collision knocked 17-year-old shortstop Luis Almanzar out of the game. One of the top Carribean prospects signed this year, Almanzar was able to walk off the field under his own power. Tra Holmes followed with a grounder to third, Varsho made a break for third base on the throw to first. First baseman Bryan Aragon's throw back to third was wild, sending Varsho home with what would be the Hops' only run.
Hillsboro had it's opportunities. Pavin Smith led off the second inning with a base hit off Hernandez, but was thrown out trying to steal second. Bryan Araiza lined a one-out single up the middle in the fourth inning, but was caught in a rundown after being picked off first. Luis Lara followed with a double, but was left stranded after Smith looked at a called strike three to end the inning.
Lara led off the seventh inning with a base hit off Tri-City's 6-8 reliever Darius Valdez, but Smith bounced into a double play. In the seventh inning Varsho greeted flame-throwing righthander Andres Munoz with a single to left. Down a run, Tra Holmes attempted a sacrifice bunt, but popped it up between the mound and home plate. The ball dropped safely, but Varsho was thrown out at second, hung out to dry between first and second base as the ball hung in the air. Tri-City's other 17-year-old bonus baby, Justin Lopez, made a fine play, throwing out Holmes at second after backhanding Dan Swain's grounder toward the hole. Munoz overpowered Ryan Dobson with a fastball to close out the threat and Matt Zimmerman retired the Hops in order in the ninth with two strikeouts to earn his first save, making Tri-City's unearned insurance run in the seventh inning superfluous.
Badamo (0-1) suffered his first loss, allowing two earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
The Dust Devils moved into a first place tie in the NWL North Division, following Spokane's 3-2 extra-inning loss at Eugene. The Hops are now tied for first in the South with Boise at 8-8 following the Hawks' 11-8 win over Everett.
Varsho and Lara each had two hits for the Hops. Podorsky had two hits and reached base three times for Tri-City. NWL-Pioneer League All-Star Game MVP Luis Asuncion also had a pair of hits for the Devils.
The series resumes with game two Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. Pregame airtime at 6:45 on Rip City Radio 620AM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.