The Vancouver Canadians opened up an eight-game homestand with the first of three against the Spokane Indians. The C’s returned home after a 3-2 road trip in Hillsboro with the three victories sandwiched by two losses. Having won five of nine in the season series, the Canadians hoped their winning ways would continue against the first-half North Division winners.
2016 Blue Jays first-round pick T.J. Zeuch was listed on the Canadians twitter feed to be the starting pitcher in the series opener after being scratched for the series finale in Hillsboro. However, the starting nod went to lefty Nate Abel instead. Zeuch was still with the club but has he been shut down for the season or is this just a case of skipping a start to manage his workload?
Abel’s first offering was an 87-MPH pitch that resulted in a fly ball out to left fielder Rodrigo Orozco. He walked a pair with two outs but ended the frame with a strikeout. He struck out the next two hitters in the second but a double and a single led to Spokane scoring first.
Vancouver tried to tie in their half of the second by loading the bases on singles by Christian Williams, Bryan Lizardo and Yeltsin Gudino. Orozco hit a fly ball to left which Williams tried to score on but Darius Day threw him out at the plate.
J.B Woodman made sure he would not be thrown out at the plate in the third as he went to the opposite field to left off Sal Mendez for his third home run of the season, just past a leaping Day over the fence. Joshua Palacios followed with his second single of the night but was forced out on a Nash Knight fielder’s choice. Knight would get to second on a wild pitch and make it to third on a Cavan Biggio base hit. The C’s would pull off the double steal as Biggio broke for second and drew the throw there before Knight slid home with the go-ahead run. However, another case of TOOTBLAN struck the C’s as Biggio was doubled off on a fly ball to left.
In the home half of the fourth was something I had never seen before. You will see a player try to trot down to first if they think the pitch was ball four, only to have the umpire call a strike to extend the at-bat. You may even see this play out twice in the same at-bat but I had never seen it happen three times during a plate appearance. This happened to Lizardo as he worked the count to 3-0 and thought he had ball four not once, not twice but three times. He tried to trot down to first all three times but the umpire said no and rung him up on strike three. You knew after the second strike that unless the ball hit Lizardo or was fired to the backstop, an automatic strike three call was on the way if Lizardo decided not to swing. Sure enough, Lizardo headed for the dugout as the pitch was “close enough”.
Abel was able to preserve the lead through his four-inning stint. After a double to start the third, he finished up strong by retiring the last six men he faced. Fellow lefty Evan Smith came in, looking to redeem himself after his one-inning, three-run outing in Hillsboro Sunday. He struck out two and erased a single with an inning-ending double play in the fifth but a leadoff walk and three singles in the sixth led to the tying run. Jackson McClelland, who served up the game-losing home run on one pitch in the series finale in Hillsboro, came in with the bases loaded and walked in the go-ahead run on four straight pitches.
The C’s had a chance to get that run right back in the bottom half of the sixth when Knight reached on an error and was saluted with the theme music from Knight Rider. Biggio then dropped a nice bunt single that hugged the first base line to push Knight to second. However, TOOTBLAN happened again when Knight got picked off second and Biggio was later nailed trying to steal second. What made those developments worse was Andres Sotillo and Williams following up with a single and a walk but they would be left stranded.
McClelland kept the game scoreless by retiring the last five men he faced, two via the strikeout and Zach Jackson struck out the side in the eighth. Unfortunately, he gave up two singles and a walk before uncorking a run-scoring wild pitch that upped Spokane’s lead to two.
The Canadians strung together three singles in the eighth but that did not produce any runs as Sotillo was thrown out at the plate to end the frame. Orozco, whose bunt single was stranded in his seventh-inning at-bat, drew a one-out walk in the ninth but he woudl be stranded as the C’s, despite 14 hits, lost 4-2 to the Rangers affiliate.
Radar Gun Rundown
Abel’s range was 79-90 MPH with strikeout pitches registering at 80, 85 and 81. Smith’s strikeouts clocked in at 82 and 85. McClelland had K’s of 82, 90 and 75. Jackson had K’s at 94 and 91. Noyalis had a K of 92.
Denis Diaz got the start in game two of this series. The 21 year-old native of Honduras was hammered for 13 runs over three four-inning starts, getting the loss in his last two. He turned things around with his longest and best outing with Vancouver since being promoted from Bluefield. Wearing #22 (worn by Juliandry Higuera and Travis Bergen) instead of #28, Diaz struck out the first batter he faced and went through the visiting nine in order over the first three frames.
Diaz was given a lead to work when J.B. Woodman and Joshua Palacios delivered RBI singles off C.D. Pelham to score Bryan Lizardo (double) and Rodrigo Orozco (fielder’s choice) in the third. Lizardo would score again in the fifth when he singled and eventually scored on a Palacios fielder’s choice.
Diaz, who was perfect through four innings, walked the first batter of the fifth and walked another before getting out of that jam. He lost his no-hit bid on a solid double to center by Darius Day but Diaz would strike out the next two batters to end his night with six shutout frames.
Nick Hartman came into the game in the seventh and navigated his way around a pair of singles and a walk to get through the eighth. Just for insurance, Cavan Biggio gave Hartman another run to work with a sacrifice fly to plate a Palacios leadoff walk. Hartman made it interesting by surrendering two more base knocks in the ninth but a strike-out/pickoff play at second by catcher Javier Hernandez to shortstop Deiferson Barreto ended the game to preserve a 4-0 victory for Diaz. Hartman earned his first pro save.
Radar Gun Rundown
Diaz was as low as 79 MPH and as high as 95. He threw in the 90-92 range with one K clocked at 82.
The Mike Ellenbest–Andy Ravel tandem got the call in the series finale. The last time those two pitched at home was July 2 against Spokane in a game the C’s won in a walkoff. Ellenbest got the ball first and things did not go well in the first when a leadoff double by Leody Taveras was scored on a two-out two-bagger by Seth Spivey. When Ellenbest returned to the mound for the second, he had a one-run lead to work with. A Joshua Palacios single and an error in right field allowed Yeltsin Gudino to score all the way from first after he picked up a base hit. A Jacob Anderson RBI groundout would bring in Palacios with the second run.
Ellenbest gave up just a walk over the next two frames, retiring the last five Spokane hitters in a row. Ravel could not preserve the lead in the fourth when three consecutive one-out singles plated the tying run. The C’s would respond again in their next at-bat when Tyler Phillips plunked Andres Sotillo and Cavan Biggio. Christian Williams doubled home Sotillo before Bryan Lizardo grounded one up the gut to score Biggio and Williams to put Vancouver ahead 5-2.
Ravel navigated his way around a hit by pitch and a balk in the fifth and a pair of singles and a wild pitch in the sixth to keep Spokane off the board. Vancouver increased their lead to four when J.B. Woodman provided a two-out single to score a Lizardo base rap.
Griffin Glaude came in for Ravel and walked just one batter over his first two frames. He gave up a run on a single and a double in the ninth but he got the final three outs for the three-inning save in a 6-3 victory.
Radar Gun Rundown
Ravel threw pitches that came in at 82, 85, 89 and 90 MPH. Glaude topped out at 92.
The C’s opened up a five-game series with a come-from-ahead 5-4 loss to the Boise Hawks at the Nat, blowing a 4-0 first inning lead. They look to bounce back today in a 1:05 pm start with Patrick Murphy slated to take the mound.
Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Colorado Rockies affiliate are at 7:05 pm and Wednesday’s series finale goes at 1:05. Vancouver is 9-14 in the second half, eight games back of first-place Everett.