Chihuahuas make late push for PCL playoffs

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Chihuahuas make late push for PCL playoffs

The El Paso Chihuahuas have six home games left in their regular season.

The El Paso Chihuahuas have six home games left in their regular season.

Michaela Roman

The El Paso Chihuahuas have six home games left in their regular season.

Michaela Roman

Michaela Roman

The El Paso Chihuahuas have six home games left in their regular season.

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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Late is better than never. That’s the motto the El Paso Chihuahuas are living by and having success with this late in the season. With 15 games left in the season, six of them at home, the Chihuahuas are making a push for the Pacific Southern Division title and a coveted spot in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

Through the month of August, the Chihuahuas have become a completely different team in the way they play and in their personnel. The Chihuahuas had a solid start to the season, but stumbled soon after star players Austin Hedges and Abraham Almonte were called up to San Diego.

A 26-31 record through the months of May and June followed the loss of talent to the majors. Since former Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy was hired as the Padres’ interim manager on June 16, the Chihuahuas have found production in their farm system.

Up and coming prospects for the Padres’ double-A affiliate, the San Antonio Missions, have filled the void without missing a beat. Center fielder Travis Jankowski batted .392 in 24 games with the Chihuahuas before he was sent up to the Padres. His replacement, Hunter Renfroe, has been nothing short of special in his first six games with the Chihuahuas; batting .308 with three homeruns and eight RBIs.

“He’s a highlight reel,” Chihuahuas manager Jaime Quirk said referring to Renfroe. “His thing (to improve on) is just consistency. Sometimes he gets a little too fast, but he has all the latent in the world. He’s a nice addition. We lost a good player to the big leagues (Travis Jankowski) and gained another good young player.”

If there has been one surprise to the Chihuahuas’ late-season success, it has been the stellar play on the road. Young prospects stepping up and filling a role is one thing, but playing substantially better away from home is a whole new ball game.

Over the past two months, the Chihuahuas have found some consistency and won in the toughest possible environment. Enduring a grueling late July and August stretch that has been dominated by road games.

With a pedestrian home record of 32-34, the Chihuahuas’ 37-26 record on the road is second best in the PCL. It’s something the players themselves cannot explain, but they just go with it.

“We’ve been trying to explain that all year,” said left fielder Alex Dickerson referring to the Chihuahuas’ success on the road. “We’ve just (been good). That’s the way it is. I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to it, it’s just panned out that way.”

Dickerson has been the most consistent Chihuahua this season; he leads the team in eight offensive categories ranging from triples to slugging percentage.

“He’s been great,” Quirk said. “He’s had a heck of a year. He goes under the radar, somehow everyone forgets about old Dick. He’s sitting right there hitting third every day. He just quietly shows up every day and does his job.”

Spending all of the 2014 season down in San Antonio, Dickerson has made the most of his first season with the Chihuahuas. Besides having individual success, Dickerson is proud to be playing meaningful games at the end of the season.

“This is the first time I have ever been close (to the playoffs) in my career,” Dickerson said. “I’ve always played for teams that are out (of contention). It’s a different feel, but we don’t feel any pressure. We’re just having fun and winning at the same time.”

The division-leading Las Vegas 51s are a game ahead of the Chihuahuas on the loss column, but as of late the 51s stranglehold over first place has weakened. Over the last 10 games ,Las Vegas is 5-5, which is compacted with a 28-37-road record.

No wins or losses can be taken for granted at this point in the season. Every game matters, but manager Quirk believes if the Chihuahuas make the playoffs it will be because of their day-by-day approach.

“The only game that is meaningful is tomorrow,” Quirk said. “You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. If you start looking ahead you’re in trouble. You just take care of business the day that it comes. The biggest game in the world is tomorrow, and that’s it.”

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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