Held homerless in their first 11 games at Gesa Stadium, the Tri-City Dust Devils are giving the hometown fans a long-awaited long-ball bonanza.
Chris O’Dowd blasted a two-run shot, Kyle Von Tungeln cracked a solo jack and Ryan Warner met zero resistance on the mound in the Dust Devils’ 15-2 win over the Hillsboro Hops on Saturday night.
One night after Sean Dwyer became the original home run hero for Tri-City, the Dust Devils (13-16) banged out 14 hits, five of those for extra bases, much to the delight of the 2,721 fans on hand.
Dwyer drove in four runs on a 3-for-6 night. Mehrten’s had three RBIs, O’Dowd scored five runs and went 3-for-5.
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It was easily the team’s best offensive showing this season, one of the best in the Northwest League. And the Hops gave the Dust Devils plenty of help as well, living down to their 8-21 record with five errors, five walks and four hit batters. Their defensive play was comical during Tri-City’s four-run fourth inning, giving up four extra outs as the lead hit double digits and the game got out of hand.
The Dust Devils have had their struggles this summer. But even at their worst, they haven’t been Hillsboro bad.
Tri-City got after Hillsboro starter Braden Shipley (0-1), the 15th overall pick in June’s daft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Medford, Ore., native had lasted just four combined innings in his two previous start and given up just one run, getting the kid-glove treatment from the Hops coaching staff.
The handling was much rougher Saturday, and he didn’t last an inning.
O’Dowd’s one-out single through the left side got it started, followed by a walk to Alex Mehrten. Dwyer had an easy swing on a ball that fell in left-center for an RBI single. Highly touted Colorado Rockies prospect Julian Yan sent the first pitch he saw in a Dust Devils uniform into left for another hit, and Wilfredo Rodriguez followed with a single to right to plate Mehrten.
Michael Benjamin’s sacrifice fly to right scored a third run and ended the night for Shipley on just 27 pitches. But it didn’t end the scoring for Tri-City, not by a long shot.
The Dust Devils pushed two more across in the second, with Mehrten’s hit-and-run single and Dwyer’s fielder’s choice scoring the runs. Rodriguez hit a one-out double to deep center in the third and came home on an error for a 6-0 lead.
It was 10-0 when O’Dowd connected on a first-pitch offering in the fifth and drove it high over the right-field wall, an area of the park previously impervious to power but now coughing up dingers like hairballs from a cat with alopecia.
It was over that same right-field wall that Von Tungeln sent his long ball in the sixth as Tri-City scored in every inning until the seventh.
It was generous support for Warner (1-1), and he was happy to have every run of it. The third-round pick from 2012 was coming off his best outing of the season — eight innings of one-run ball last week at Boise. But he left with the score tied at 1, setting for yet another no decision.
No such problem Saturday. Warner loaded up the Hops with offspeed and breaking stuff, getting grounder after grounder and breezing through the innings — 25 to get through three, 53 through five.
The Tri-City defense was more than up to the task, turning a pair of double plays and getting serious work up the middle from Mehrten at short and Cesar Galvez at second.
Even when Warner gave up leadoff doubles in the sixth and seventh as his pitches started to rise, he bore down and got off the hook both times.
He gave up just four hits — one of those getting a serious assist from a broken bat — and one walk while striking out four in seven shutout frames, running his scoreless streak 14 innings.
The bullpen took care of the final two innings, giving up a couple of runs with plenty of cushion to spare.