June 16 2019,Vancouver- The opening weekend of the Vancouver Canadians season did not go as planned. The Cs began their year with a dismal outing in their season opener, a 9-1 loss. However they did rebound on Saturday with a dominant defensive win, before returning to their leaky ways on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The opening game on Friday afternoon had many intriguing storylines to go along with the obvious one of it being opening day. RHP and six ranked Blue Jays prospect Adam Kloffennstein, the highest ranked Blue Jays prospect on the C’s roster started on the mound, and it was also the first game to be broadcast on Sportsnet 650 radio. However, despite all the excitement- the hometown team laid an egg in their first game, losing 9-1 and never looking very promising.
Friday’s ballgame was a story of bad luck for the C’s, and good pitching for the Indians. Through the first four innings, Spokane RHP Ricky Vanasco only allowed two hits- while being helped out by the Spokane bats who put up six runs of support.
The bad luck for the C’s came right at the beginning of the game, when second year Canadian McGregory Contreras got a piece of the baseball, before his glove deflected over the fence for Spokane’s first home run of the season. As for Kloffenstein- the C’s starter on the day, he was credited with the loss after earning all six runs. Vancouver did get some solid pitching in relief, but by the time that came around, the game had already been lost. Overall the game was out of reach early for the Canadians, who never were able to rebound after their bad luck in the top of the first.
Saturday nights 3-1 win broadcast nationally on Sportsnet TV was entirely different story than Fridays opener. The C’s got solid pitching from the get go, and their complete defensive performance was universally better than the previous game.
There were multiple outstanding performances on Saturday, however the most outstanding has to be that of second year C Yorman Rodriguez who got four hits on four at bats, bringing in two runs. Other than Rodriguez, Vancouver’s offense was spearheaded by another returning player, catcher Brett Wright who went two for four on the day, and brought in the third run.
The win was credited to Grayson Huffman who came in for relief of Townsend who started. Townsend got six strikeouts himself and was only the beginning of what was an exceptional evening for the pitching staff. When all was said and done, the C’s threw 19 strikeouts- including five from Townsend and Huffman as well as debutee Gage Burland. Luke Gillingham and Josh Almonte also chipped in with three, and one strikeout respectively. Having the experience on the roster can help teams, especially early in the season. That was certainly the case for the Nat Bailey boys on Saturday night.
Off the field, it was also the first national TV broadcast of the Canadians. In years past the C’s could be found on Shaw TV community television. While it was nice to see local baseball on local TV, the production value was exactly what somebody would assume. Sportsnet on the other hand, is one of two top Canadian sports networks, and the production value of the broadcast reflected that. Former Toronto pitcher Ricky Romero joined Canadians radio broadcasters Rob Fai and Caroline Frolic for the TV broadcast, the three put on an exceptional few hours of TV..
Being able to see the Canadians on TV had an effect across the country. Speaking to Hayden Godfrey, a writer at Jays Journal. He said “It’s really important we see these guys, especially fans in Toronto- we don’t get a good first hand sense of our prospects, with the C’s on TV- it creates a connection the the MiLB teams like we have never had before.”
Saturday’s game was a success in every aspect. The game itself was the Canadians first win of the season, the experienced player s carried the load- with help from rookies, and the broadcast went off exceptionally.
The strikeout frenzy that was Saturday night bled over into Sunday for the C’s continued in the first inning on Sunday, as William Gaston struck-out his first two batters, in which was a three up three down opening inning for the Canadians defense. He would go on to pitch five innings, earning both runs while seven went out swinging. To the mound for the Indians was Josh Javier, who was starting his first game on the season. Javier pitched four innings, allowing one hit and getting six strikeouts.
For Gaston, those two straight strikeouts are two he will never forget- as they were his first strikeouts as a professional baseball player. As I spoke about in the preview, Gaston is an interesting prospect, who is largely unknown in the organization- so Sunday gave the Blue Jays their first good look at the young Cuban.
The top of the opening inning was fantastic for the C’s, and so was the bottom. After simple outs, Rodriguez stepped up to the plate and collected his fifth consecutive hit over the past two days. He would steal second, but was stranded there as Ronny Brito struck out to end the opening inning. That hit would be the last of Rodriguez’s hit streak which ended in his next at bat in the fourth.
The second inning was not as hot for the C’s defense, who allowed the first run of the day. Luis Asuncion began the offense for Spokane with a long double to centre field, he was followed by Scott Kapers who was hit by the pitch, allowing Jonah Mcreylonds as well as Obie Ricumstrict to bat both runners in. For C’s pitcher Gaston- it is very likely he was feeling some nerves, so some wild pitches were probably expected. Gaston and the C’s would get out of the inning only allowing those two runs- in what continued to be a fairly successful beginning to the Cubans professional pitching career. Although his, and the Canadians defensive effort rebounded in the third- striking out two batters.
The fourth started off shaky, but quickly turned into an exceptional inning of fielding for the Canadians. After allowing their first two batters on base- the C’s Davis Schnider and Yorman Rodriguez put together a 2-1 double play, followed by Gaston’s sixth strikeout to end the inning.
The Canadians faced a new pitcher in Glen Richardson for the fifth inning, and finally got on the board. Jesus Lopez got a leadoff double, and would steal third. Centre fielder Dominic Abbadessa followed that up with a lacklustre hit, but an unforced throwing error was enough for him to reach second as well as bring in Lopez to score. Abbadessa, like Lopez would steal third- before being scored by an Adrian Ramos line drive. The Canadians tied the game up in the fifth inning, after failing to find their bats throughout the first four.
While the C’s made strides in the fifth- the tie game did not last long. Dominican Adams Cuevas came in as the first reliever of the day for the C’s and promptly un-did the C’s hard work on offense. The collapse began with a Scott Kapers double, follows by an Asuncsion double and, a Starling Joseph walk. There would be three more hits before the home run by Ricumstrict to extend the lead to five runs and a 7-2 ballgame. The C’s did respond however, putting together a steak of hits; loading the bases, before last years RBI leader McGregory Contreras came up to the plate and sent the in the third run of the day. Cuevas pitched 2.2 innings, earning five runs before being relived by Nicolas Medina.
The Canadians showed signs of life in their last two at-bats, scoring one run in the eighth and one in the ninth to bring the score 7-4. By games end, it was too little too late for the C’s, who dropped their second of the season and fell to a record of 1-2. it was the fifth inning pitching which doomed the Canadians on Sunday, without that collapse- it is very likely the C’s could be walking away with the win.
Regardless of the results, the Canadians sold out each and every game in their opening series. packing the Nat Bailey to its 6’413 person capacity three consecutive days.
The first series of the season is now in the rearview, and the Vancouver Canadians get set to welcome to Eugene Emeralds to town for a four game set, beginning Monday night at 7:05.
C OF THE SERIES:
This seasons first C of the series goes to Yorman Rodriguez. the second year Canadian had an outstanding series against Spokane, especially the series second game. Rodriguez had a five hit steak, and earned two RBIs on the weekend. through that, he led the C’s to their first win. despite getting on base so much, he was left stranded many times as well- due to the unproductiveness of the C’s offense. Along with his performance at the plate, Rodriguez was exceptional at first place as well, not making a single error through the series.