Given their struggles, the Eugene Emeralds (now 9-15) are trying anything to right the ship. On Sunday night, they switched coaching duties, having assistant coach Jacob Rogers coach third, while manager Steven Lerud remained in the dugout. It might seem small, but it worked.
“We had to try something else,” Lerud said. “We haven’t scored too many runs lately. It’s maybe superstition … but it worked, so we’ll go with it tomorrow.”
Despite trailing 3-0 in the ninth inning, the Ems scored four runs to walk-off against the Hillsboro Hops, 4-3.
“This is a game of momentum,” Lerud said. “We’ve been in a lot of these games. …. Those guys in there, they’re not gonna quit. They’re working hard everyday to keep getting better.”
The inning started with a leadoff walk by Nico Hoerner, who advanced to third on a single by Jonathan Sierra. After Christopher Morel’s sac-fly, Tyler Durna stepped to the plate as the tying run. The first baseman hit an opposite-field ground-rule double, which could have easily been called foul.
“Just barely fair, it looked like to me,” Lerud said with a grin and a laugh. “It’s about time something like that fell our way.”
After a lengthy argument between Hops manager Shawn Roof and the home plate umpire, the coach was ejected. Gustavo Polanco then stepped to the plate looking to tie the game with runners in scoring position.
“[Polanco] is a veteran,” Lerud said. “He’s been in this league before. He’s been in these situations. I know he has been scuffling lately, but I have all the confidence in the world in that guy at the plate, so I am going to keep running him out there.”
Polanco hit the Ems’ second consecutive ground-rule double to center, leaving no doubt whether it was fair. Fernando Kelli took over as a pinch runner and after two wild pitches the game was over.
“Whether we win or lose, we seem to put together good at-bats in the latter innings and get ourselves back in these ballgames,” Lerud said. “I wasn’t surprised there that we did it. It was just a matter of time before we pulled one out.”
Starting pitcher Jose Albertos turned in his best start of the season, going four innings, striking out five and allowing two runs on four hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch. The Cubs No. 4 prospect showed great command in the first, second and fourth innings. His two earned runs came in the third when he lost control of the zone, walking two batters that eventually came home to score.
“I thought Jose threw the ball a lot better,” Lerud said. “He commanded the zone a little bit better. Obviously he worked around some traffic in a few of them, but it was good to see him get through that fourth inning there. Hopefully he can build on that.”
The Ems will host the Hops for one more game, Monday at 7:05 before traveling to Spokane for a five-game series. They will return July 16 to host the No. 2 overall pick in the MLB draft, Joey Bart, and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack