The Tri-City Dust Devils have a chance to reach the Northwest League playoffs for the first time since 2011, and they are in a great position to do it.
Not only are the Dust Devils playing their best baseball this year, but they also have eight consecutive home games to finish out the regular season.
Tri-City (15-15 second half, 29-39 overall) opens a five-game series against the Hillsboro Hops (20-11, 42-27) beginning at 7:15 p.m. today at Gesa Stadium. After that, the Dust Devils close out with a three-game series against Everett (13-17, 24-44) beginning Aug. 30.
Tri-City leads the North Division by a slim margin, one game ahead of three-time defending NWL champion Vancouver (14-16, 39-29) and two games ahead of Everett, so this last homestand is absolutely critical to their success.
One thing is for sure:If the Dust Devils end up winning the NWL North Division in September, then August will be remembered as the month they turned things around.
Tri-City hit just .229 through its first 48 games in June and July. But they rebounded with a .289 clip in August, thanks to hot streaks from Sean Dwyer (.370), Marcos Derkes (.357), Shane Hoelscher (.354) and Wilson Soriano (.484 in 7 games since arriving from Grand Junction).
Dwyer, by the way, was named the NWL’s top offensive player for the week ending Aug. 17. Dwyer, an 11th-round pick by the Colorado Rockies and a NWL All-Star in 2013, hit .333, including two doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in seven games.
On the pitching side, the Dust Devils had a collective ERA of 4.97 through July. But in August, they have settled down a bit with a team ERA of 4.58. Some pitchers appear to have saved their best for last, inculding starters Helmis Rodriguez (1-1, 2.25 ERA in four August starts), Blake Shouse (1-0, 1.80 ERA in 3 starts) and Logan Sawyer (2-1, 2.89 ERA in 18 2/3 innings).
The relievers have been excellent in August, too, starting with closer Josh Michalec (1-1, 0.90 ERA, 4 saves in 10 innings) and Huascar Brazoban (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 8 2/3 innings before a promotion to High-A Modesto).
Hillsboro, which won the first-half South Division title and also hold a three-game lead in the second half, had an eight-game winning streak snapped by Spokane on Sunday night.
The Hops also bring in the league’s best pitching staff with an ERA of 3.76. Along with top starters Ryan Doran (4-3, 2.56 ERA) and Nick Baker (3-1, 3.25 ERA), they also have the NWL’s top closer Zac Curtis (13 saves, 2-1, 0.75 ERA).
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; email@example.com