Following a hot stretch before the all-star break, the Hops suffer their first three-game losing skid

They’re down, they’re up — it’s been quite a week for the Hillsboro Hops.

Entering last week’s Northwest League all-star break, the Hops were rolling, having won four of five games heading into the Eugene festivities. Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro third baseman Nate Robertson lays a tag on Eugene's Nick Torres on a stolen base attempt during last Friday's Northwest League baseball game at Ron Tonkin Field.

When league play resumed last Thursday, it was business as usual: Hillsboro opened a three-game series at home against Eugene with a 5-2 victory. With the Hops nursing a one-run lead, Stryker Trahan launched a two-RBI triple to center field to score Kevin Cron and Grant Heyman, who both singled. Cron led off the bottom of the third with a home run to left field for what turned out to be the winning run.

On the mound, Austin Platt gave up three hits and two runs in five innings for the win, and the team got great relief out of the bullpen, as Dan Savas, Luis Ramirez and Mason McCullough combined for four hitless innings.

But then the Hops did something they had not done all season.

They dropped three in a row, starting with 9-3 and 7-6 losses to Eugene. That skid was punctuated by a 7-1 loss Sunday to Salem-Keizer — the squad the Hops are engaging in a see-saw battle for South Division supremacy — in which an anemic offense mustered just five hits and was saved from a shutout by Trahan’s home run to right field in the fifth.

Heading into that game, Hillsboro was one of only five teams remaining among Major League Baseball’s 230 affiliates that had yet to suffer a three-game losing streak this year. Kyle Anderson struggled in the start, giving up a five-spot in the third that his team could never dent.

The Hops responded Monday, making sure that three losses did not turn into four — in a big way.

Led by Zach Esquerra, who smacked the first grand slam in Hops history, Hillsboro powered to a 13-7 win at Salem-Keizer. Esquerra’s bomb was part of an eight-run seventh — a Hops record — and it put the road team up 10-5 at the time. Jordan Parr continued the fireworks four at-bats later by smashing a three-run shot to right field to put the game out of reach.

Parr and Esquerra combined for four hits, three runs scored and nine RBIs, while Cron added two hits and three RBIs and Jake Mayers chipped in three hits, a run and two RBIs. Felipe Lopez picked up his first win in a Hops uniform with five hits and three runs in five innings, and McCullough earned the save.

With a shot at forging a tie for first in the South, the Hops appeared on track for another big win Tuesday, when they wrapped up the Volcanoes home-and-away series. Hillsboro put up seven runs in the second inning to jump to a 7-1 lead. But in a back and forth affair, Salem-Keizer had the final answer with a three-run eighth to drop the Hops 14-11. That bumped Hillsboro to 11-8 in the second half (33-24 overall), two games back.

Cron, Parr and Trahan all hit home runs in the contest and combined for six hits, six runs scored and eight RBIs. Platt coughed up eight hits and 11 runs in a 4 2/3-inning start, while Tyler Toyfair took the loss in 2 2/3 innings of relief.

Hillsboro returned to Ron Tonkin Field Wednesday to start a three-game series against Boise that concludes tonight. Then the team is back on the road for three games in Eugene. After a day off Tuesday, the Hops will settle into a five-game series against Spokane starting Wednesday. Including tonight’s contest, just 17 regular season games remain.

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