June 20th, Vancouver- The Vancouver Canadians continued their season opening homestand with a four game series against the 2018 Northwest League Champions, the Eugene Emeralds. After dropping two of three games to the Spokane Indians to open the season, the Canadians were looking for their first series win against the Oregonian visitors. The Nat Bailey boys had their way with the Emeralds in the first game, but that was the high- as they followed their lone victory with three straight losses.
Monday, June 17th, Game 1 VS Eugene Emeralds
While the first series saw some of the Jays big pitching prospects, the games against the Emeralds switched over to the more unknown arms in the system. In Monday night’s 4-3 win, the Canadians sent 20 year old Gabriel Ponce to the mound. Ponce, who was making his first professional start was an undrafted free agent signing for the Jays, who assigned him to Vancouver mere days after inking him to his contract. To the bump for the Emeralds was the heavy thrower Didier Vargas, playing his third year in the Chicago Cubs organization, but first at the Single-A level.
Ponce’s first pro inning did not go how he intended. He did retire two batters in quick succession, however he then followed up by allowing two doubles, leading to the opening run of the day for the visiting Emeralds.
He was not left out to dry after that first inning, his teammates did bail him out with offensive output from Tanner Morris, Trevor Schweke, Will Robertson, Yorman Rodriguez and, McGreory Contreras, the C’s erased their deficit and took a 3-1 lead after the first.
Ponce was relieved after 2.3 innings, after two strikeouts and one earned run. Relieving him was one of the few second year C’s on the team, LHP Randy Pondler. The third inning was a whirlwind for the C’s. It began with some excellent fielding from Ronny Britto, picking off Edmond Americaan at second base- but was followed by a two run home run from Yonathan Perlaza to tie the game at three. Pondler did ok in 2.3 innings of work, striking out one- but also allowing a home run. He was relieved for the top of the sixth by Andy McGuire, who is also on his second stint in Vancouver.
After Pondler giving up the home run, it was not long until the C’s regained the lead. Outfielder Mcgrogory Contreras took full advantage of some spotty fielding, combined with good base running- and was able to score by stealing home. The 4-3 run was the final one Vargas would see for the Emeralds, as he was relieved in the bottom of the fifth inning in favour of fourth year minor leaguer Jesus Tejada.
Andy Mcguire found himself in a tough spot in his first inning- loading the bases on his first the batters, however he worked his way out, leaving all three stranded, and the C’s lead remaining in tact.
The 4-3 run proved to be the winning run, as the C’s were able to secure the victory thanks to the save from Luke Gilligham to end the game.
Tuesday, June 18, Game 2
After their win on Monday, the C’s looked to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. Unfortunately, that was not the case as the Canadians fell 4-3 through 10 innings to the Emeralds, a flipped scoreline from the night prior.
Vancouver sent Juan Diaz to the mound, where he faced off against Eugene RHP Niels Stone. Both were making their first start of the season, and for Diaz- his first start at this level.
Another exciting debut in the game was that of Luis De Los Santos– a shortstop sent down from the Lansing Lugnuts, one level up in the MiLB.
Right from the beginning, Diaz showed some of the various pitches he possesses in his skillset. He threw multiple fast balls- his go to pitch, but also tested his new changeup which took many fans by surprise when it clocked in at 72MPH. He did strikeout his first batter, and the C’s helped him out with a clean double play to end the first. In the end, Diaz’s day was pretty good- he finished allowing three runs, while also having three strikeouts through six innings of work.
After some solid fielding, the C’s got off to a quick start offensively. The first two in the order? They both hit singles. And Trevor Schwecke batted in the first run of the day, thanks to a dropped ball by Eugene third baseman Yonathan Perlaza. On his first at bat as a C, De Los Santos reached first and collected his first RBI in Vancouver, scoring Tanner Morris for the second run of the day.
Lots of firsts in that sequence. How fun is that?
That run, followed by loading the bases would trigger an early end to the day for Stone, as the Emeralds sent in Blake Whitney to clean up the mess that Stone made. Whitney did what he was asked to do, leaving all three runners stranded. While he did do his job, he would not last long- as he left the game in the third in favour of RHP Chris Allen.
It took four innings for the Emeralds to get on the board, and in that fourth inning they tied it up. A line drive down the first baseline put Edmond Ammericaan on base, and he scored on an error. That first run was then followed by another error against the C’s, allowing Luis Vasquez to steal home. The leading run was scored by Peralza, who also stole home after the C’s got their out at first base.
Vancouver found the tying run in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to dubutee Luis De Los Santos, who collected his second RBI of the day with hard hit down the third baseline. Not much happened for the next few innings- other than the Emeralds sending in their fourth pitcher, fourth year minor leaguer Fauris Guerrero.
The C’s on the other hand did not have nearly as much pitching turnover, making their first change in the seventh inning- sending Juan Nunez in relief. Later In the seventh the C’s were almost leaders, they loaded the bases-but left all three players stranded.
The game finally broke its deadlock in the bottom of the eighth, with some amazing batting from the C’s- eventually scoring from a Tanner Morris double. The C’s would send their closer Gage Burland, who was unable to get the save- as the C’s ended up dropping this one 4-3 in extra innings.
Vancouver did not get the win in, but the fashion in which they lost was due to some questionable calls from the umpiring crew. First was a steal home which looked like a tag from Brett Wright, although it was called safe. That was the tying run, and the one the C’s could not get back. That call drew the aggravation of manager Casey Candael, who challenged the umpire before getting thrown out of the game for his first time.
A win here would have put the C’s with a possible winning record from their homestand instead- it meant that they best they could do would be .500 before heading out on the road for seven straight.
Wednesday June 19, Game 3
After dropping Tuesday night in extra innings, the Canadians were hopeful that they could get back to .500 with a win on Wednesday. However , that hope was quickly dashed as the Canadians fell behind early in the game and failed to claw themselves back after conceding two runs through five innings. What Wednesday did present, was the professional debut of Burlington, Ontario native RHP Alex Nolan, who came in for the fourth inning. Nolan is also the lone Canadian citizen on the roster so far this season.
Former Texas State University pitcher Nick Fraze got the start for Vancouver in this one, and did well through three innings- striking out one batter, and retiring his first two. He even overcame an error from third baseman Ronny Brito, to keep the C’s close in his innings.
The game was filled with errors for the C’s, and they were very lucky to get out of the early Brito one unscathed. The first run for Eugene was well earned, coming from good base running from Yonathan Peralza, but the second was a result of a fielding error from Luis De Los Santos. This was De Los Santos’s only error what what was an exceptionally well played series for him.
The Canadians would answer in the bottom of the fifth to keep the game close, although thats as close as they would get. Vancouver’s third pitcher of the day Grayson Huffman came in for the last few innings- and was punished by the base running of Peralza once again. The Venezuelan hit a one-out single, and later scored thanks to a stolen base and an RBI double from Fernando Kelli. That was the third run for the Emeralds, and was the nail in the coffin on the night for Vancouver.
Vancouver only managed to get seven bits in the game, and were limited to a mere three over the final four innings. Thanks in part to the pitching dominance of Makial Aguiar.
While the Canadians dropped this game, and lost their chances for a winning opening homestand, they did have a lot of beneficial takeaways. Of course, for fans it is nice to see a Canadian take the field, even if not a local boy such as Will McAffer last season. It’s also important to the Blue Jays organization, as the only MLB club in Canada they take responsibility to develop Canadian talent in order to grow the sport in the great white north. The other takeaway has to be the promising play of newcomer Luis De Los Santos and the ongoing recovery of Grayson Huffman.
Lessons and development are of utmost importance at this level, and the Canadians are doing a good job of that so far- even though they may not be winning just yet.
Thursday, June 20th, Game 4
The final game of the series saw the return of the youngest player on the Canadians roster, highly touted Blue Jays prospect Adam Kloffenstein had his turn in the rotation as the Canadians fell hopelessly to the Eugene 3-0 . For the Emeralds, it was Zach Mort from Chesterfield Va. while the 22 year old pitcher was unknown to most- he is certainly from a welcome place here at chesterfieldsports.net.
In his opening day appearance, Kloffenstein pitched three innings and struck out five, allowing two hits. A promising start for the 18 year old, who only built on that in Thursday’s game, pitching 3.2 innings, allowing one hit and getting four strikeouts through 62 pitches. He was replaced in mid-way through the fourth inning by Nicolas Medina, who was making his fourth appearance of the season.
The first run of the game nearly came in the fourth inning. Luis De Los Santos hit a powerful ball between the centre and right fielder, getting to second base on his hit. He would steal third, but be caught out in a rundown between third and home- finishing the inning with the game still tied.
The missed opportunity was one the C’s would soon come to rue, the Emeralds opened the scoring at their next at bat. Jonathan Soto hit a fly ball double , scoring Fernando Kelli- who had hit a double himself one bat before. Soto would then score thanks to a Jake Slaughter single, making the lead 2-0 for the Emeralds. That single, and the second run scored spelled the end of the day for Nicolas Medina. After Medina tough outing came to an end, with a a statline of two earned runs, and one strikeout- Candael sent Adams Cuevas to the mound in hopes of salvaging something from the game.
Cuevas improved the Cs pitching significantly through his 2.1 innings, throwing three strikeouts- and bring the C’s pitching staff to their second most strikeouts in a game this season. The Canadians struck out seven batters in the final game, still miles away from the 19 they collected vs Spokane.
The Emralds pitching was very stable in this one, as Mort went six innings, only giving up two hits to the sputtering Vancouver offense. following Mort were reliver and closer Raidel Orta and Riley McCaulley. The latter was especially dominate in collecting his save, striking out five of his six outs through two innings to end the game.
The C’s finished the day of with Josh Almonte and Luke Gillingham. Almonte gave up the third run, in a game which was all but lost by the point he had entered.
At the end of the homestand the C’s fell to 2-5, a very bad opening to the season to say the least. It was the first time in a few years that the Canadians had opened at home, meaning they did not have the team bonding experiences they have had in the past.
Now on the road for seven straight vs Everett and Hillsoboro, the Canaidans will have time to come together as a group, work out their kinks and hopefully find some offense hiding in their bats.
C of the Series:
SS/DH Luis De Los Santos
Last series it was Yorman Rodriguez, who continued his fine form in this set of games and still leads the team with a .455 batting percentage. However this time, he was overshadowed by newcomer to the team Luis De Los Santos. After being sent down a rung from Lansing, he came in to the Nat Bailey with a chip on his shoulder, and oh boy did that chip do him good.
In the final game of the series, he went three for four in his batting attempts and collected five bases. YES! 5 BASES! Thursday’s game was his finest of the series, but he was outstanding throughout. Playing as a DH as well as at shortstop, he brought an element of calmness to the teams defence, and caused havoc at the plate. If the Dominican can continue his hot streak for a while; the combination of him, Rodriguez and Contreras should take the league by storm.
The Canadians now hit the road for the next week, starting off with a four game set in Hillsboro, followed by three games vs the Everett Aquasox before returning to Vancouver to take on the Spokane Indians once again. The Hillsboro series will be broadcast on MiLB.TV, so if you are interested, you can watch those games.
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