After having a tough start to the season, the Vancouver Canadians hit the road for the first time of 2019- traveling all the way down to Oregon to take on the Hillsboro Hops of the south divison. Vancouver had never lost a series in Hillsboro prior to their most recent visit, but failed to continue that trend, dropping three of four to the Hops.
Game 1 Friday June 21 VS Hillsboro Hops
The first game saw RHP Grant Towsend take the mound for the C’s, and it was his second appearance of the season. Interestingly, it is also the second time where Townsend was in front of cameras, albeit this time under a paid subscription. His last star, against Spokane was broadcast live on Sportsnet Pacific.
The top of the first began very promising for the Canadians, and not so hot for Hillsboro Hops RHP Marcos Tineo- who struggled through his three innings . Three of the first five batters got on base, loading the bases for McGrerory Contreras. Leaving last year’s home run leader with the grand slam opportunity, he went for it- but was caught out in centre field, stranding all three runners.
The stranded runners was only the beginning of a good start for the Canadians;. Although they did not score in the first- it would not be long until they did. In the second the C’s got their bats swinging quickly, and got three hits through their five batters in the inning. With those hits, Cameron Eden got his first professional RBI, scoring Ronny Brito for the first run of the day. In common fashion, the C’s did leave two runners stranded, at least this time they cashed in once.
That would not be Brito’s last contributions. In his second at bat he again got a hit, this time getting an RBI as well, bringing in Yorman Rodriguez to make it a two run lead.
The offense continued for the C’s in the fourth inning, and so did the struggles of Tineo. The C’s got on base twice, forcing the Hops to make a pitching change, sending LHP Franklyn Soriano to clean up the mess. With the two runners already on base, the hole proved too big for Soriano to fill- as the C’s made their lead three thanks to an RBI from Luis De Los Santos. The 3-0 was the C’s biggest lead of the season so far this season, and through the first four innings, Vancouver got 10 hits, also the most on the season to this point. The Canadians would also add another run before the inning closed- ending the fourth inning with a 4-0 lead.
The fielding was outstanding for the Canadians through this one, with magnificent catches by Brito and many others. The C’s widened their lead in the seventh inning thanks to a fielding error, to make it a five nothing ballgame heading into the final two innings.
Grant Townsend was very good in his start as well, and pitched seven innings- a rare occurrence in Northwest League play. He continued to use his three pitch repertoire, and did very well controlling his changeup- striking out two batters in the second inning. Townsend threw six no hit innings, before giving up his first hit in the seventh. His performance was by far the best performance from a Canadians pitcher this season.
After the departure of Towsend, the C’s sent Andy Mcguire and Gage Burland to close out the game. They did their job, but allowed one run- meaning the C’s continue without a shutout d in 2019.
The Canadians added another run late to finish the gam at 5-1, and spoil the home opener of the Hops.
Game 2 Saturday June 22:
The highs of the first road game of the season failed to translate to game two, as the C’s fell 3-1 on the road- giving the Hops their first home win of 2019. While the Vancouver boys lost, it was far from boring game. The highlights included two ejections, and Davis Schnider’s first professional hit.
Other than the ejections, this game featured many themes of what has been constant throughout the Canadians so far in 2019. The C’s left 8 runners in scoring position stranded, and failed to cash in on many scoring opportunities.
“It was almost a microcosm of the whole season” said Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai, after the C’s failed to provide any offense- to a once again strong pitching performance.
William Gaston got the start for the Canadians, and again pitched well, throwing five and two thirds innings and only allowing three hits. One of those was a home run, but it did not matter much as the Canadians failed to provide any offense. He was relieved by Grayson Huffman and Luke Gilligham, both of whom failed to help the C’s claw their way back into the game.
The top of the eighth was where the tempers began to boil over. A disputed call on a full count to Ronny Brito caused the Canadians third baseman to shout at the umpire, and get himself thrown out of the game. Manager Casey Candael came out to defend his player- and he too was ejected. The C’s then went on to allow the two runs which put the game to bed for Hillsboro.
It was Candael’s second ejection of the season, and for a guy who is as experienced as he is; it is certainly a surprise. Two years ago he was in the major leagues as a third base coach with the Seattle Mariners, and now he is manager of the single A Canadians. The problem for him is likely the adjustment from MLB calibre, back to the raw talents of Single A. it’s not only the players who are trying to move up, it is also the umpires- and Candael is just not used to the level of umpire that is present in the Northwest League.
While this game pretty much summed up the C’s season so far, it was yet another game which points to promising things in the future. You don’t want to be ejected, but if you are it signifies a passion for winning, something that cannot be coached. That passion alongside the fact that the C’s ARE GETTING ON BASE signals that things will start to improve sooner or later.
Game 3 Sunday June 23
Nothing changed for the Canadians in the third game of the series, as they fell 4-1 and saw their record sink to a dreadful record of 3-7. The worst record in the league. The Canadians also kept up their trend of stranding baserunner, leaving 13 players stranded through the afternoon. Yes 13 runners! That number is absolutely unheard of, and is a big reason why Canadians have yet to win many games this season.
Prior to game the Canadians were affected by a few moves made by the Shapiro-Atkins management group in Toronto. Pitcher Juan Nunez, who was playing exceptionally for the C’s was called up to Lansing, after spending two years with the Canadians. To fill the hole, Vancouver was joined by catcher Ryan Sloniger, and pitcher Parker Caracci. While the promotion of Nunez is good for him, it put the C’s is a precarious position for the next little while.
Caracci made his professional debut on Sunday, coming out of the University of Mississippi, he pitched the eighth inning- but by that time the score was already determined.
The start was given to Gabirel Ponce who again pitched a clean 2.1 innings for the Canadians- in what his second start of the season. He was relieved by Randy Pondler- who would give up the three-run home run which spelled the death of the C’s in this game. After the home run,
Pondler vacated the mound for Josh Almonte, who allowed hillsboro to add another run, and extend their lead to four. As mentioned prior, Caracci would close the day for the C’s but was unable to recover the game in his one inning.
After trailing by four, the Canadians got a run back in the top of the seventh thanks to a walk on Tanner Morris, and McGregory Contreras collecting his second RBI of the season. That would be as close as the Canadians would get, in what was their seventh loss of the season.
Although scored in the seventh, the Canadians best scoring chances came in the third inning when Cameron Eden got on base- stole both second and third, meanwhile his teammates loaded the bases. You can guess what happened next. Yup, they stranded all three- much like they have done all year.
Pondler was credited with the loss, although it was not a great pitching performance from any of the Canadians pitching staff. That, alongside the enormous number of runners stranded contributed to why the C’s failed to find success in the third game of the series.
Game 4 Monday June 24
Things did not get any better for the Canadians in the final game of the series, as they dropped their third straight game, and weren’t even close after the first pitch. With the loss the C’s fell to 3-8, their worst start in NWL history- and fell four games back of the first half pennant leaders, the Spokane Indians.
On the Sunday Sportsnet 650 radio show “Canadians Game Day” Rob Fai suggested that any team that falls more than four games behind first place- can pretty well be counted out of playoff contention, at least for that half.
The Canadians fell off the rails very quickly in this game. The first two innings went scoreless, but it was in the third when things began to vere towards their ugly side. The hops began their scoring with RBI singles from Kristian Robninson and Jorge Barrosa, and after that the onslaught began.
Those first two runs came against starter Juan Diaz, who was relieved after those two runs- in a decision manager Casey Candael would likely like to reverse. The reliever was Adams Cuevas, who did not help much- allowing another two runs himself through his two innings. While Diaz and Cuevas did not offer much, they were substantially better than the third pitcher; Nicolas Medina, who was blown out of the water and looks like he’s in over his head at this level of baseball.
In his atrocious outing Medina dug the C’s another five runs deeper, and saw his ERA balloon to an unbelievable 18.00. He only pitched two outs before the Canadians opted to cut their losses and pulled him from the game. Gage Burland and Grayson Huffman would finish the day for Vancouver, but by the time they were called into action- the result was set in stone.
While the defense was truly terrible for the Canadians, the offense did wake up in the final innings. The C’s put up four runs in a valiant rallying effort which fell far short of the 13 runs they were looking for. The game likely spelled the end of Vancouver’s hopes of clinching an early spot in the postseason, but the group will have to respond and recollect themselves to put forth a much better second half.
C of the Series
It’s difficult to award pitchers the C of the series, as they only take part in one game, but in this series which was so dire- the honours have to go to Grant Townsend. The Canadians RHP had the best pitching performance of the season in the first game vs the Hops. Townsend through nearly seven no-hit innings, and retired the first 10 Hillsboro hitters consecutively . with that performance he brought his era down to 2.08, the best on the Canadians roster as it stands.
Townsend’s series opening performance was the only bright spot for the Canadians during their four game visit to Hillsboro, and if he can continue to pitch well, he will either continue to help the C’s- or earn himself a call-up within the organization.
The Canadians now travel up the I-5 for a three game series against the Everett Aqua sox, before retuning home for an eight game Canada Day homestand, which begins Friday vs the Spokane Indians.
There will not be a series review article on the Everett Series- as it is not possible to watch the games over any medium.
For all your C’s coverage, keep an eye here on the website, and also check out the C’s Plus Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts.