Canadians: Vacuum cleaners or baseball players? C’s sweep Dust Devils

The Vancouver Canadians completed what some would call a sweep sandwich. After sweeping away the Dust-Devils, the C’s travelled to Spokane, and then returned home to sweep Tri-City once again. 

For Vancouver, who were already eliminated from first-half contention, the rest of the first half is mostly time to practice. However, that’s not to take anything away from the results, as they affect the possible end of season tiebreakers. Nonetheless, the Canadians went down to Spokane without the pressure of a pennant race. Spokane on the other hand, was a piece of fruit in the blender, battling for the first-half playoff spot. That drive, along with an abundance of C’s errors led them to a win in the first two games. Vancouver finally got the winning feeling back in the third game, ending the trip with a 7-2 victory. 

Upon their return home, the Canadians welcomed a familiar foe, the Dust-Devils who they had faced, and swept just three days prior. The series opened up a six-game homestand, which began with Tri-City and concludes with the Everett Aquasox. All three games in the series offered something special- Saturday night was the third national broadcast of the season, Sunday a long-awaited noon matchup, and Monday a superstar series appearance. 

While on the road, the Canadians received an addition to their roster, in 21-year-old pitcher Jared DiCesare. He pitched 3.2 innings in the third game against the Indians, being credited with the win, his first at this level. 

Game 1 July 20

Under the lights of national TV, and on a field corressed by the setting sun the Vancouver Canadians sent the Saturday night sellout home happy with a late, yet convincing 5-2  win over the dust-devils. The C’s played the spoiler role, as the win eliminated the Dust-Devils from first half contention.

If the night was not already special enough, it became even more so when Canadian born pitcher Alex Nolan was picked to make his first start of the season. The Burlington, Ontario native had drawn the eye of many baseball fanatics this season coming from the bullpen. Since he often came into the game early, manager Casey Candael decided he was ready to make his first start, and do it in front of a national TV audience. 

Coming out of Brock University, Nolan bucks the trend that Canadian schools are bad at baseball, and he only helped that case on Saturday night. While his outing was not perfect, it showed the C’s have another capable starter in their pitching arsenal. He pitched six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs- including a home run. 

On the mound for the Dust-Devils was Ethan Elliot, a 22-year-old out of Knoxville, Tennessee. He did not last as long as Nolan, although he had a decent performance. After his three innings of action, he had allowed three hits, meanwhile also striking out five batters. He did not allow a run, – which at the end of the day is the key thing. After Elliot, Felix Minjarez and Sung Wen-Hua finished the day and allowed all of the runs, all five of which were earned. 

It was a tight ballgame up until the fifth inning when the offensive ball finally began to roll. First was the Dust-Devils, who hit a leadoff double, and scored that man with another double off the bat of Alison Quintero. The lead would not stand long though as the Canadians scored a pair of runs in their next at-bat. The tandem of Tanner Morris and Yorman Rodrgiuez collected the runs for the C’s, who found themselves in the lead after five innings. 

Nolan was relieved in the sixth inning by Parker Caracci, who pitched two fantastic innings, getting five of his six outs with strikeouts. To close the day Canadians manager called upon one of the newer Canadians, Mike Pasco, who successfully collected the save for Vancouver. 

Vancouver’s lead would not be long-lasting either! 

The Dust-Devils fired right back in the sixth inning, Nolan’s final frame- to tie the game at a pair of runs each. Although that would be the last bout offence for the visitors, who sputtered their way through the final trio of Vancouver runs of the game to seal their fate at 5-2.

Both the C’s and Dust-Devils used three pitchers in the game, one of the smallest totals for either team so far this season.

The Saturday night sellout was the fourth matchup between the two sides this season and the fourth win for the Canadians. While many of the Canadians shone brightly on the day, none did so more than Nolan, who effectively announced himself to Canadian baseball fans tuning into the nationwide broadcast. With the victory, the C’s improved their TV record to a perfect 3-0.

So many good things for Vancouver on this night. They got to present themselves once again to a large audience, introduce a promising Canadian baseball player to the masses, and win a ball game- something that has been a rarity in 2019. 

Game 2 Sunday, July 21

With both teams eliminated from first-half contention, Sunday’s game was more of a glorified practice session, albeit in front of 6’400 fans. Vancouver seemed to be more comfortable playing without any pressure, as they crucified to a 10-1 win and their fifth straight over the Dust-Devils. While the game itself might not have held much importance, it was another day of professional experience for all of the young players. 

The most notable of the young players was Adam Kloffenstein, the Canadians starting pitcher on the day. He is the sixth-ranked prospect within the Blue Jays organization and has finally started to adjust to the rigours of the professional game. After a promising debut, his performance got worse- up until his last outing, when he began to show signs of improvement. The most notable improvement was his efficiency, throwing more strikes, and lasting longer than he had in the past. His pitch limit has been around 70 this season, as was the case on Sunday.

Kloffenstein was relieved after the sixth inning, when he hit is usual allotment of 75 pitches. Through his performance, he struck out four and allowed one run. More importantly, he improved his strike percentage for the third straight game, establishing a promising trend after a difficult start to the season. 

Relieving him was Josh Almonte, who came in a prompt dug a whole for the C’s- walking four batters before being pulled prior to innings end. Fortunately for the C’s, a double play turned by Trevor Schweke and Yorman Rodriguez, got them within one out. Almonte forced himself out of the game, paving the way for Nicolas Medina to come in to finish the inning. In the end, despite all of Almonte’s struggles, the Canadians came out of the frame unscathed. Medina did not last long, as he came in as mainly a stopgap, not a closer. Through 1.1 innings he allowed a single hit but no runs. 

On the mound for the visitors was Nick Thwaits, who faced Vancouver last week where he allowed four runs through four innings. His appearance also saw him only get two strikeouts, a season-low for the 20-year-old from Sacramento. Thwaite’s performance on Sunday was nearly identical to his last. Throwing four innings, allowing four runs, and striking out a measly two batters. He was relieved in the fifth inning by Dan Dallas, a left-hander who had one of the lowest ERA’s (1.08) on the team before the game. Dallas’s outing was brief, only one inning- however, he did not allow any runs. His replacement Jake Sims came in the bottom of the seventh, and performed subpar- and subpar would be a compliment.

The Canadians got off to a dream start, especially offensively. Trevor Schwecke was the day’s first hit, and he was brought in thanks to a double from heavy-hitting McGregory Contreras. Phillip Clarke, who was at first was rushed home but was tagged at the plate. Contreras would score off yet another double, this time from Will Robertson to make the lead 2-0 early for Vancouver. 

After their hot start, the Canadians kept their foot on the gas, extending their lead in the fourth inning. The third run of the day was something from nothing, and another contribution from Contreras, who fired a ball over the left-field wall for his third home run of the season. The second of the inning was a sacrifice fly, which was able to score Robertson. Those two runs would spell the end of the day for Thwaits, who looked unsettled yet again in his second appearance vs Vancouver in 2019.

The four-run lead was short-lived, with the Dust-Devils getting their first run of the day in the fifth inning. No, they did not summon the spectacular like Contreras, just a simple sacrifice fly off the bat of Reinaldo Ilarraza to score Jonny Homza.

With the introduction of Jake Sims into the game and onto the mound for the Dust-Devils, things began to take an ugly turn for the visitors. It was hit after hit on the right-hander, and the C’s were able to get their second home run of the day. This time a two-run shot off the bat of Yorman Rodriguez. 

And the inning ended there…

No. It didn’t. It got worse for the Dust-Devils. Like, A LOT worse! 

With two outs, a routine fly ball from Will Robertson was dropped by the trio of outfielders, that scored one run. Next? Well, Brett Wright hit his first home-run of the season, and the third for the C’s on the day. Jake Sims was pulled after he dug his team into trailing 10-1, however, his relief did not help matters. Starlin Cordero was sent in, and loaded the bases and fast and efficiently as he could, although he did not allow any more runs. When the seventh inning finally found it’s way off the scorecard, there was no more Jake Sims, and the Canadians held a dominant 10-1 lead. 

The remainder of the game was very uneventful, other than the C’s closer Luke Gillingham coming in to seal the victory for Vancouver.

10 runs is the second most the C’s had scored this year, only behind their 16-9 win against Salem-Keizer. With the win, Kloffenstein improves his record to 2-2, and the Canadians keep the good times rolling. Just in time for the second half of the season.

Game 3 Monday, July 22

The first half’s final game. Standings wise, it was relatively meaningless, but for the Canadians, it gave them the opportunity to complete their second sweep of the season over the Tri-City Dust Devils. 

While the first two games of the series featured two of Vancouver’s headline pitchers, the third offered up a different arm. William Gaston, who came into the season as one of the most intriguing players on the C’s roster was on the mound for the seventh time this season. He arrived in Vancouver as an unknown quantity but has introduced himself well so far this season. The Cuban put in a performance much like his others, maintaining the good form he has shown throughout his time on the mound. 

For Tri-City, their youngest team member started the game. Ignacio Feliz, at 19 years old and already in his third year of the pro game. He has gotten better as the season has worn on- although he has certainly not done anything spectacular. 

Gaston threw four innings for the C’s on Monday, allowing a run and three hits, very similar to his stat line in other games. Although he may not be beckoning for a callup, the 23-year-old has begun to establish himself in the professional baseball scene. 

 The opening third of the game offered nothing in terms of scoring. Despite shutout innings, there were some amazing fielding moments. The best of which came from C’s centre fielder McGregory Contreras, who made a miraculous falling back, sitting catch. 

Tri-City got things started offensively in the fourth inning, which was a defensive disaster for Vancouver. Walks, errors and consecutive hits were able to score Reinaldo Ilarrza for the first run of the day. The run was unearned and came as a result of some lacklustre fielding from Vancouver. 

The next two innings went by without notice, but then it got exciting. The dust devils extended their lead to three in the top of the eight, making the mountain a little tougher to climb for Vancouver. 

What happened next was the best moment of the first half. Earlier in the campaign, the C’s would have been detected and closed up shop. That was not the case on this night. The Canadians rallied thanks to errors from the Devils and were able to score three runs. 

Mason Fox, the pitcher who was responsible for the collapse was promptly pulled, but it did not help the Dust-Devils campaign. The momentum had already shifted into Vancouver’s favour. 

The game entered extra innings, and the Canadians were on a roll. The C’s cleanly fielded in the top of the inning, setting the stage for a storybook walk-off ending. And what an ending it was. After going 0-22 in his last at-bats, Luis De Los Santos had the chance to seal the victory for the Canadians, and he did just that with a walk off single. Completing the seasons best moment and the C’s second sweep of Tri-City in 2019.

Vancouver now begins the second half of the season with a three-game set against the Everett Aquasox, their closest north division rival.

 

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