Of all things to sway momentum in a game, the ol' hidden-ball trick seems the most unlikely.
And yet that's exactly what happened Saturday night in front of a crowd of 1,537 for B.G. Gould Bobblehead Night at Harry & David Field.
RECAP: Medford second baseman Joe Chavez drives in four runs and pulls off a momentum-changing, hidden-ball trick to help the Rogues snap a five-game losing streak in WCL play.
UP NEXT: Tonight, 6:35, Klamath Falls Gems vs. Medford Rogues, Harry & David Field.
Medford was able to pull off the playground gem in the top of the fourth inning to disrupt a potential scoring opportunity by the Bend Elks and seemingly unnerve the visitors, who totaled as many ejections as outs in the bottom half of the wild inning and failed to recover in the Rogues' 8-2 victory.
The Rogues scored twice in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by a three-run fifth inning with Victor Garcia's league-leading sixth home run and broke it open in the sixth when Joe Chavez scored a rare two-run sacrifice bunt.
In the process, designated hitter Chris DeVito also extended his hitting streak to 10 games by going 2-for-4 with three runs scored. That mark equals the team record established last summer by current Oregon standout A.J. Balta.
"We had a lot of stuff happen tonight," said Rogues manager Josh Hogan. "It was exciting."
"The hidden-ball trick was kind of a huge momentum swing in that game," he added. "It would've been second and third with one out but instead it was a runner at third with two outs. They didn't like it, apparently, very much but that's part of the game that I've grown up with."
The win snapped a five-game losing streak in West Coast League play for Medford (13-10), which returns to Harry & David Field at 6:35 tonight for a game against the Klamath Falls Gems.
"You can't say that this little slump we've been in this last week is for a lack of effort," said Hogan. "They're really trying hard, we're just being tested right now is what was happening in my opinion. This game tests you mentally and physically. It's a grind. You've got to show up every day and it was just nice to finally get rewarded for this hard work. Hopefully we keep that momentum going from this game."
Second baseman Chavez proved to be the man of the moment in the roller-coaster ride, driving in four runs overall after catching Bend's Brock Carpenter off guard in the fourth with his heady defensive play.
"I feel like this game is really going to get the guys going and we're going to really roll after this one," Chavez said of the intense victory.
Neither team had managed to score through three innings when Grant Newton reached on an error by Chavez to open the fourth for the Elks (15-12). Newton moved to second on a wild pitch and then Carpenter walked to set the stage for cleanup hitter Billy King, who dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt that resulted in an out from first baseman Garcia to a covering Chavez at first base.
The trickster side of the Rogues then came out as Chavez faked a return effort of the baseball to starting pitcher Jeff Hardy.
Soon, the game was afoot.
"We actually just got done working on that a couple days ago," said Chavez, a UC Riverside product. "I grabbed the ball and looked at Hardy and kinda gave him a look so he knew what's up. I tried to get the umpire's attention because I knew he wasn't looking. I tried to show him the ball but I just hoped that the home base umpire saw me because he was looking straight at me. I even yelled, 'Blue, blue, blue,' when I put the tag on him and everything worked out."
Initially, actually, there was no call because the umpire at second base, Randy Horner, hadn't seen the trick play. After a gathering of officials following Hogan's protest of the no call, the determination was made that Chavez had, in fact, applied the tag to an unsuspecting Carpenter while Hardy kneeled down to tie his shoe on the grass beyond the pitcher's mound.
"Initially the umpire wasn't looking at him but Dale (Anzo), the umpire at third base, was looking so he caught that," said Hogan. "We got lucky there. Usually you let the umpire know beforehand that you're probably going to put it on or you have that in your bag of tricks and they'll be on that, but we didn't have time to let them know on that, it was just kind of a whim thing."
Bend head coach Marty Hunter argued with home plate umpire Alex Chavez over the ruling, then things really heated up moments later when Nick Lopez struck out to deny the Elks a chance to score the first run. Lopez threw his bat and elbow protector down in anger, then Hunter returned to his argument with Alex Chavez — leading to his ejection as players switched spots for the bottom of the fourth.
Bend starting pitcher Patrick McGuff, who struck out three of his first four batters faced and allowed two hits through three innings, then opened the bottom of the fourth by hitting DeVito with a pitch to his side. Donald Glover Jr. was then hit hard by a pitch on his left knee, forcing him to crumple to the ground in pain and have Forrest Garcia replace him in the game.
After both benches were warned by Alex Chavez, Clayton Meyer's perfect bunt single loaded the bases for Joe Chavez, who took a tailing fastball to the helmet by McGuff for the game's first run. The third hit batter of the inning, as well as the placement of the errant pitch to the infielder's head, led to both dugouts spilling out before ultimately being denied any chance altercation near home plate — although Bend assistant coach Aaron Mathews had to be restrained in his attempt to get at Medford pitching coach Jeff Lyle as they yelled at one another across the melee.
McGuff was immediately ejected for his part in setting off the short delay, and Mathews later became Bend's third casualty when he continued to argue with the umpires.
"It got exciting there for a little bit when they were throwing at our guys but our guys responded well," said Hogan. "We didn't get into a throwing match with them by throwing at their guys. We just wanted to win the game at hand and beat them that way and the guys really did that today after that happened."
Joe Chavez said he didn't expect the Elks' reaction to be as great following his defensive maneuvers a half-inning before. He didn't mind, however, taking one for his team to kickstart its engines.
"I think that kinda got the guys going a little bit," he said of getting beaned. "We really came together as a team right after that. At the stake of my head, it's all right. I'll wear it off my head if we can come together like that."
Christian Cox later drew an RBI walk against reliever Jeff Albrecht to give Medford a 2-0 advantage in the fourth.
Bend scratched for a run in the fifth when Sam Finfer singled and eventually scored on a balk, but Victor Garcia got that run back in a hurry in the bottom of the frame with a solo blast that easily cleared the 339-foot mark in right field.
Singles by DeVito and Forrest Garcia set the stage for a bigger inning, and Joe Chavez added an RBI single to center field and Ryan Teel made it 5-1 on a sacrifice squeeze bunt.
The floodgates opened with three more Rogues runs in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by consecutive singles by Yuto Kata, Victor Garcia and DeVito. After Meyer plated a run by drawing a bases-loaded walk with one out, Joe Chavez hung in on a high-and-tight pitch for a sacrifice bunt that sent him reeling toward his dugout but allowed DeVito to score from third and Forrest Garcia to score from second on heads up baserunning.
"That was huge on his part especially," said Joe Chavez. "The ball was coming at my face and I just said, 'Hey, I'm gonna get it down,' and Forrest is always running hard through the bases."
After a seventh-inning walk to Bend's Josh Cushing, Cole Ferguson followed Jo Carroll's double with an RBI single but center fielder Cox limited the damage by throwing Carroll out at the plate.
Hardy improved to 3-1 by allowing five hits and two runs in seven strong innings, striking out four with two walks and two hit batters.
Bend Elks 000 010 100 — 2 7 2
Medford Rogues 000 233 00x — 8 11 1
McGuff, Albrecht (4), Wilcox (6) and Finfer, Ferguson (6); Hardy, Dilda (8), Quarterley (9) and Teel. W — Hardy (3-1). L — McGuff (1-2). 2B — B: Carroll. HR — M: Garcia (6).