July 3rd 2019, Vancouver- Coming off their first series win of the season, the Vancouver Canadians looked to keep the good times rolling against the Hillsboro Hops, a team who they struggled against last week.
They did not do that. Not at all. Like not close. Vancouver lost all three games, and were only close in one of them. with the trio of losses, the Canadians fall to a franchise worse record of 5-15, and now boast the worst record in all of short season “A” baseball.
Playing one of the better teams in the league could not have come at a better time for the Canadians, who had their moods lifted thanks to two consecutive and exciting wins over the north division leaders the Spokane Indians. The series also kicked off on Canada Day Monday, a night which is always a special one for Vancouver. Another intriguing feature for this series was the presence of multiple top 30 prospects for both the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks. Andy Yerzy, a Canadian citizen is the 12th ranked prospect in the Arizona organization, while Adam Kloffenstein is the sixth ranked for Toronto. With Canada Day, and the prospects- the series had a-lot to offer.
Hillsboro and Vancouver met just last week for a series in Hillsboro, and a trio of games which offered a wide variety of Canadians performances. Grant Townsend pitched an amazing game for the C’s in their lone victory, however the other two games were won easily by the Hops. This series was very similar, except the Canadians did not get that single victory.
Game 1: Monday July 1
The Canadians fell 6-3 in the series opening game, under the bright lights and big crowd of Canada Day. Manager Casey Candael pegged University of Texas alum Nick Fraze to start on the mound. Fraze, was starting his third game of the year, in his previous starts. he had struggled- and did not last more than two innings. His main mission on Monday? Cut down the ERA, which was sitting at a bloated nine runs. And cut it down he did. He pitched 2.1 innings of no hit baseball, bringing that stat down to 5.68, one of the better numbers on the team,
For Hillsboro RHP Marcos Tineo got the start. He was the only pitcher in the previous series to lose against Vancouver, and that was his only loss through his two starts this season. Like Fraze, he struck out his first batter- before getting some double play help to close out the first inning.
The Canadians had a fantastic chance to open the scoring in the third inning, singles and walks led to a bases loaded, two out opportunity for Ronny Brito. Sticking to the script and status quo of the year, Brito and the Canadians stranded all three runners, failing to take an early lead in front of a Canada Day crowd, whom were waiting to explode from their seats.
It was not offensive output which finally got the fans out of their seats, but the entrance of LHP Alex Nolan, from Burlington, Ontario- the only Canadian on the roster. Nolan got caught in tough in his first inning of work, loading the bases with only one out. Thankfully for him, his fielders bailed him out- turning a double play to get the C’s out of the inning unscathed. He would go on to pitch 3.2 innings- allowing six hits and two runs.
Vancouver would not be unscathed for long. Hillsboro got the first run of the day in the top of the fourth inning. The run came off the bat of David Garza, who drove in Tristin English from third base for the first run of the day. The Hops would add another, this time from a sacrifice fly to lead 2-0 after four. The frame was not friendly to the Canadians, who allowed hit after hit, and only got their first out after giving up a run and loading the bases.
The C’s trailed for two innings, but finally found their offensive breakthrough in the bottom of the sixth. A double on part of Luis De Los Santos kickstarted the inning, he was scored on a line drive single from Will Robertson, who picked up his second RBI of the season. The second run came from a sacrifice groundout of McGregory Contreras, who failed to reach first but allowed Robertson to score the second run of the day.
The onslaught would continue with a solo home run from DH Ryan Sloniger, who became the third Canadian to go yard this season. The output forced the Hops to make two pitching changes in the inning. First sending in Jacob Stevens who was promptly lit up, and following him up with Yaramil Heraldo to get the Hops out of their mess.
The C’s changed up their pitching in the seventh and eighth innings, relieving Canadian Alex Nolan of his duties. The home team first sent in Adams Cuevas, who pitched a single unforgettable inning, before making way for the side-armer Andy McGuire, who failed immensely in his attempt to close out the Canada Day affair for the C’s.
Leading heading into the ninth inning, the Canadians efforts fell off the tracks incredibly quickly. McGuire hit three batters, and allowed four runs- which would prove to be the winning ones. He only lasted one inning before Candael had to pull him from the game. Vancouver looked to Parker Caracci as a stop gap, although even his best efforts were not enough to propel the C’s to the comeback win.
The loss is incredibly frustrating for a Vancouver team who fell to a record of 5-13, and a side that was finally hitting their stride. Making matters worse, Vancouver were playing in front of a sell-out Canada Day crowd. Luckily baseball plays nearly everyday, so the Canadians had a chance to get back on the hop with another game against the Hops on Tuesday.
The loss also put the C’s on pace for 21 wins this season, which in a 75 game schedule- would be the worst in franchise history.
Game 2: Tuesday July 2nd
The second game of the series was time for revenge for the Canadians- unfortunately, that revenge would have to wait as Vancouver lost again, this time by only one run and a score of 6-5.
The C’s let it slip in the dyeing moments on Monday, but they did entertain their holiday Monday fans. Tuesday’s game had a special allure for the educated baseball fan, as 18 year old, highly touted prospect Adam Kloffenstein was given his fourth start of the season. For Hillsboro it was the debut of 21 year-old RHP Wilfry Cruz. The Domincan right hander was called up from the Pioneer League, and did not look out of place in his first appearance at this level.
Kloffenstein’s pitch count has been heavily restricted this season, but he has not disappointed in his three outings. Unfortunately for him, he has been trending downward in his strike percentage. In his three previous starts he has thrown between 60 and 73 pitches, but his number of strikes has fallen down by roughly ten percent each time. He had a rough outing on Tuesday, especially in the first inning. He struck out his first batter, but after that it was all downhill- at least for that inning. He allowed a single to Hillsboro’s Ricky Martinez, and followed that up with a home run off the bat of Steven Leyton. The home run gave the Hops a two run lead, only three batters into the game.
The two early runs were only the beginning of what was an offensive show for the Hops. while they were silenced in the second inning, the visitors got right back to their scoring ways in the third and fourth- adding another four runs to make it an insurmountable 6-0 lead. Errors and off-speed pitching were to blame on the part of the Canadians. However, astute base-running from the Hop’s helped them put up their barrage of runs.
Kloffentstein, the well regarded prospect finished his day throwing his organizational requirement of 70 pitches- 38 of which were strikes. He gave up the most runs he has in any outing this year, and continued his downward trend when it comes to strike percentage. Certainly not what he was hoping for heading into his fourth start of the season.
The debutant pitcher for Hillsboro lasted five innings, and had a very promising performance for his first time at this level. Now it is true that he was facing a lacklustre set of bats in the Canadians, but five innings of two hit, shutout baseball is good in any circumstance. The game was finished by a mish-mash of four different arms, all of whom accumulated only one strikeout.
For Vancouver, Kloffenstein left the game after four innings, and manager Casey Candael sent in reliever Nicolas Medina, who entered boasting a Canadians worst ERA of 12.27. The Venezulean would pitch his best performance of the season, going four innings, allowing two hits and bringing his ERA down to a somewhat respectable 7.94.
It took a while, but Vancouver finally got on the scoreboard in the seventh inning after loading the bases. The C’s were gifted their first run of the day when Brett Wright was hit by a pitch, walking in a run. The C’s left all three others stranded- a theme which has become prevalent for them this season.
The first run opened up the floodgates for the C’s, who began the eighth inning dwindling Hillsboro’s lead down a little further to 6-2. First baseman Yorman Rodriguez led the inning off with a double, before McGreory Contreras stepped up to collect the RBI. Once again, the heavy hitting part of the order converted for Vancouver as they attempted to crawl back into the game. That second run would only be the spark plug for what was an incredible 8th inning rally. With two runners on base, Davis Schneider hit a double- bringing the C’s within one run of the Hop’s. Although the effort was valiant in the end, the Canadians would not come closer than one run, showing nothing of promise in the ninth inning.
There were two big takeaways from the series second game. First of all, the resilient effort from the Canadians after falling behind early. The rebounding ability is something new for this team, who showed nothing of that sort when they went down by the same amount of runs in hillsboro a week ago. Even though they may not have gotten the win, it is a welcome sight to the group of young players learn to rebound in the face of adversity.
The other takeaway was the realization of trends in the pitching performances. For Kloffenstein, it is concerning that his downward swing continued, however it is the first challenge he has faced in his professional career. And with his level of skill, alongside his willingness to learn- the 18-year old prospect will eventually break out and begin and upward trajectory. On a more positive note- the performance of Medina allowed the C’s to keep the game within reach, whereas in his other performances, he has been nothing more than an insult to injury.
Despite the takeaways and effort, the Canadians again failed to win- dropping the team to a dismal record of 5-14, meanwhile having Hillsboro (13-6) with almost the reverse record. The loss also put out any positivity the C’s may have been feeling after posting consecutive wins for the first time this season against Spokane.
Game 3, Wednesday July 3
The Canadians failed in their attempt to withstand a series sweep, falling victim to the Hillsboro Hops for the third day straight. this time by a trouncing of 6-0.
Vancouver made a number of changes heading into the series final game, three of which were important to take note of. RF Will Roberston, who had been struggling at the plate, and in his positing high in the order, was sent down to the six slot in hopes of revitalizing his offensive side.
The other, more obvious change was the Northwest League debut of the RHP Luis Quinones. called up from the rookie level Bluefield Blue Jays. Quinones had featured in two game during his brief Bluefield stint, however he did not make a start- making his Canadians debut his inaugural start of 2019. The debuton only lasted two innings, striking out two batter, and allowing a pair of runs.
Most intriguing change of them all was the absence of heavy-hitter McGreory Contreras, who was rested for the final game of the series, leaving the Nat Bailey boys without one of their big bats.
Initially, Quinones had the nooner crowd on their feet, with an exciting strikeout on his first batter, although after that- things started to begin their downturn. He walked his second batter, and allowed a home run from Kristian Robinson as his third. Although the home run never should have happened. The pitch prior to the home run was a fly ball foul, which was dropped by C’s first baseman Yorman Rodriguez.
For the Hops it was Deyni Olivero on the mound who had yet to lose a game this season, and had the best ERA in the NWL at 1.26. on Wednesday he improved on that, pitching five innings of shutout baseball- bringing his ERA down to a worldly 0.89.
The Canadians brought in their first reliever for the third inning. William Gaston came into the game, making his first relief appearance of the season. the usual starter is a strong option from the bullpen for Vancouver, and he showed his strength through his four inning performance.
Vancouver was able to silence the Hillsboro bats until the fourth, when a series of singles and walks, alongside tentative fielding allowed the hops to extend their lead to four after four innings. Jesus Marriaga and David Garza both scored in the innings, giving the visitors a 4-0 lead.
following the inning in which the C’s fell four behind, things did not improve- with the Canadians allowing an additional runs in the finals two innings, finishing the game as 6-0 losers.
There were a number of new faces around the Canadians clubhouse prior to the game, and two of them saw time on the field. first was Quiniones, who I have spoken about at length and the second was Mike Pasco, who made his debut in the seventh inning. Sent down from Lansing, Pasco has had a good 2019 season, continued on that in his first appearance, throwing two innings and one strikout while earning a single run.
Vancouver would not get any offense in this one, allowing Hillsboro to complete the sweep and giving the Canadians their third loss in a row. With another loss the Canadians now fall to a single A short season (NWL and NY-Penn League) worst record of 5-15.
C of the Series:
There was not much to be excited about for Vancouver in this one, but the C of the series goes to Ryan Sloniger, who became the first Canadian not from the 2018 roster to hit a home run.
While his home run did come in the losing effort of Canada Day, it was the only piece of “stand-up” offense the C’s found all series. In the other games he performed at an OK level, getting his average up to a team second best of 0.333.
He joined the C’s roster later than most this season. however, he has cemented himself as one of the go-to guys on the team sheet at the catcher position. The other catchers on the roster, Brett Wright and Yorman Rodriguez have seen their appearances behind the plate be limited, due to the good play of Sloniger. When not catching, Sloniger has been contributing offensively in the DH role.
It was not easy to pick a player of the series in this one, frankly because there were not many players who truly deserved it. nonetheless, it was a solid series from Sloniger, earning himself the honours this time around.
The Canadians now hit the road for a quick fourth of July road trip, heading south to take on the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, before returning home to face their north divison rivals- the Everett Aquasox.
C’s Notes and Transactions:
RHP Adams Cuevas sent down to the rookie level Bluefield Blue Jays.
CF Dominic Abbadessa put on seven day injured list on July 1st.
RHP Luis Quiniones promoted to C’s from rookie level Bluefield Blue Jays.
RHP Mike Pasco sent down from advanced “A” Lansing Lugnuts
There will be no coverage of the Volcanoes series on the website nor the podcast, but everything will be back next week for the next C’s homestand. For all of your Vancouver Canadians news, keep checking chesterfieldsports.net and take a listen to the “C’s Plus Podcast,” available wherever you get your podcasts.