With a win tonight, the Tri-City Dust Devils would win their first-ever playoff series. They looked awfully good during a 6-0 win over the Boise Hawks last night at Memorial Stadium.
Christian Bergman put together his normal brilliant outing, tossing seven shutout innings — his eighth outing of 7 innings or more and also the eighth time he's held the opponent without a run.
But one thing I've been impressed with about this team is they do the little things to win. It's true that guys like Tim Smalling, Brian Humphries and Tyler Massey are among the league leaders in extra base hits, runs and RBIs, but guys like Jared Simon, Leonardo Reyes, Juan Crousset and Jaron Shepherd have done a great job keeping things going with clutch hits and plus at bats.
Meanwhile, guys like Taylor Featherston, Jayson Langfels, Ryan Casteel and David Hernandez have given Tri-City some big-time stability in the infield.
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I think the Dust Devils have had more talented teams, but I can't remember the Dust Devils ever having such a balanced team from top to bottom. That's a big reason why they are where they are.
Tri-City off to another good start in Game 2. A leadoff single by Humphries gets things started. Then Reyes bunts him over to second and beats out the throw to first. A one-out walk to Simon loads the bases and Langfels scores Humphries with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 1-0.
Two innings later, the Dust Devils get four more. Langfels led off with a walk and Featherston followed with a one-out single to put runners on the corners. Shepherd then hit a bloop single to short center that dropped in just past the dirt to bring in Langfels. That made it 2-0.
Hernandez hit a single past a drawn-in infield to bring in Featherston (to make it 3-0) and chase Boise starter Joe Zeller. With Shepherd at third and Hernandez at first, Humphries dropped a suicide squeeze bunt down the third base side, and Shepherd made a nice hook slide at home to push the lead to 4-0.
Tri-City scored one more run in the third when a routine groundball from Reyes skidded under the glove of Hawks SS Wes Darvill. That made it 5-0, giving Dust Devils starter Tyler Gagnon a five-run lead he probably didn't need.
But it never hurts to have a little extra breathing room.
Tri-City almost lost all of its breathing room on one swing of the bat in the top of the seventh.
Suarez relieved Gagnon, who allowed just one run — a solo homer by Reggie Golden in the sixth — over six with six strikeouts. Suarez started well, retiring the first two batters he faced, and appeared to strike out Zeke DeVoss on a check swing third strike to end the inning. He started his swing, but while he tried to check it his momentum kept his body spinning — with the bat in hand — through the strike zone. But home plate ump Lee Meyers said DeVoss didn't break his wrists.
Casteel, the Dust Devils catcher was furious and vociferously challenged the call. Herald photographer Kai-Huei Yau got some intense shots of Casteel's reaction. Check out his 'Behind the Fold' blog on tricityherald.com to see his good work.
Anyway, Suarez then walked two and gave up a single to Brad Zapenas to load the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate in a 5-1 game. Ryan Cuneo, the Hawks' cleanup man, hit a towering drive down the line in right that looked like it might tie the game. But it curled foul by a few feet, as just under 1,000 Dust Devils fans exhaled in unison.
Suarez battled Cuneo to 3-2 before getting him to pop out to Humphries in center to end the inning.
As it turns out, a Cuneo grand slam might not have even mattered. The Dust Devils score one more in the seventh and three more in the eighth to make it 9-1.
Humphries and Shepherd both finish with four hits, and Reyes adds two more plus a stolen base.
And Tri-City wins it to earn a spot in the NWL championship series. The Dust Devils made it twice before, in 2007 and 2009, but a Tri-City team hasn't won a NWL title since the Triplets did it in 1986.
If you ask me, this team has an excellent chance to do it.
Now it's time to see who Tri-City will play. Vancouver will play at Eugene in the deciding game of the West series. If the Canadians win, the series will begin Friday at Gesa Stadium, followed by Games 2 and 3 in Vancouver.
If Eugene wins, however, the Emeralds would forfeit home-field advantage because of an Oregon Ducks football game at Autzen Stadium on Saturday. That means the Ems would play host to Game 1 on Thursday, followed by Games 2 and 3 on Friday and Saturday.
Nothing against Vancouver, but I'm praying it's Eugene. Being the moron I am, I don't have a passport and wouldn't get to travel to Canada.
Sucks to be me.