It’s been a long road swing for the Vancouver Canadians, who had not played at
Nat Bailey in over two weeks. and their return home was not all they would have wished for, dropping two games of a three-game set against the Everett AquaSox. The series loss was salt in a wound for the Canadians, who began the second half with a bang only to be then “gifted” a ten-game road trip, which could end up being season-defining.
Going into the road trip, the C’s had the mentality that if they came out with five wins they would be in good shape heading into the final few weeks of the season. Vancouver started strong, holding at .500 for the first six games, although they ended the trip with a five-game losing streak and a record of 3-7, not exactly what they were looking for.
Although the on-field exploits are what is in focus, the actions off the field were also very interesting. Toronto Blue Jays first-round pick Alek Manoah, who had been long rumoured to come to Vancouver was finally sent to the Canadians. The 11th overall selection made the C’s roster significantly stronger, let alone bigger- as Manoah is a literal giant. While his addition is a certain boon for the team, his pitch count is extremely limited after a gruelling college season.
So recapping, the Canadians lost most of their games on their road trip but got debatably one of the organizations most exciting pitchers. That was the C’s news over these last few weeks, but that’s not all.
There was the All-star game too! The Canadians had four players take part in all-star festivities. Of course, the NWL batting average leader Yorman Rodriguez was one of them. He was joined by highly regarded pitcher Adam Kloffenstein as well as Phillip Clarke and Trevor Schweke. “Kloff” pitched an immaculate inning, while Schweke drew a trio of walks. The others did nothing of note in their appearance. However, 2019’s all-star game was the first time there were multiple C’s in the starting lineup, with Rodriguez and Schweke both starting.
Game 1: Thursday, August 8
The first game of the series was happy return home for the Canadians, who came away with a 7-5 victory over their I5 rivals. It was also the first time Vancouver fans got to feast their eyes on the bulky Alek Manoah. Allotted 50 pitches, Manoah was set to pitch three innings on the day, however, his start was far less from ideal. He hit the first batter and went through 21 pitches in the first inning. Certainly not making the most of his opportunity. The eleventh overall pick was likely overwhelmed by the sell out crowd that was at the Nat Bailey. His 50 pitch limit allowed him to go three innings, one more than he went his last time out against Tri-City. While he started out wild, hitting his first batter- by the time the third rolled around he had struck out the side. His day ended with two batters walked and seven strikeouts a solid “B+” performance for the prospect.
On the mound for the AquaSox was another 2019 selection, the Mariners fourth-rounder Tim Elliot. He had a much shorter leash than Manoah, and was relieved after a pair of innings. He struck out three batters but did not show anything very special. Reliving him was Jorge Benitez, a Puerto Rican who was signed out of high school in 2017.
The offence exploded for the Canadians in the third inning. A rare base hit from Ronny Brito was followed up by a walk, putting runners at first and second. Then the magic began to happen, with fans clamouring for a bunt- Tanner Morris opted for the opposite, ripping a triple to right field and giving the C’s a quick 2-0 lead. Oh yea, how many outs were there when this happened? ZERO. Morris would score on a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0 after three.
Manoah was relived ahead of the fourth inning, sending William Gaston to the mound for Vancouver. Gaston had quite a rough first inning, with multiple walks and allowing an earned run. He ended the inning with the bases loaded, but the Sox were only able to get one run in the frame.
The bumpy road did not end there for gaston, who gave up another run in the fifth as the AquaSox clawed their way back from the three-run deficit. That cut into the lead would not last long. The Canadians got right back to it, with another RBI from Tanner Morris, restoring their two-run lead and giving Morris’ his third RBI of the game. That run sparked a forthcoming of offence for Vancouver, who piled onto their lead to make it six runs in quick fashion.
Gaston lasted only a pair of innings before making way for Nicolas Medina, however, the pulling of Gaston was needed. It was clear that he was getting tired, and he was giving up multiple extra-base hits, and allowing the AquaSox back into the game. Medina would last only a pair of innings as well and gave up another two runs to make the game a little exciting heading into the final third at 6-4. Mike Pascoe, the midseason addition was sent in relief of Medina to halt the onslaught that was the sleeping AquaSox batters.
At 6-4 heading into the final frames, the Canadians did were able to find themselves an additional insurance run to keep the win within their grips. It was needed, as the AquaSox were able to get a late run in the ninth to bring them to five. At six runs, there would have been a scare for Vancouver, however, with seven the win was all but official.
The C’s prevailed as 7-5 victors in their return to home, with great performances from a handful of players. Manoah sparkled in his home debut, Morris got three RBI and Grayson Huffman got another win under his belt. All in all, a great welcome home for the Canadians.
Game 2: Friday, August 9
Yea, it’s pretty crazy that the C’s have two of the Blue Jays top 15 prospects in their pitching staff. Alek Manoah manhandled the AquaSox on Thursday night, meanwhile, Adam Kloffenstein attempted to do the same on Friday.
It was not the same result for Kloffenstein who was credited with the C’s 8-2 loss and saw his personal record drop to 3-4. The whole day for the C’s was not great right from the first pitch. Kloffenstein allowed three earned runs in his five innings of work, the most he has this season. The reliving pitchers did not do much better with Gage Burland and Parker Caracci surrendered two and three respectively.
The bats which were so active for the Canadians on Thursday fell silent in front of the sun-soaked Friday afternoon crowd. Vancouver was able to muster up eight hits throughout the game, even getting 10 runners into scoring position. What plagued them was the same problem which hindered them early in the season. Stranded runners. The Canadians left eight of their ten scoring position runners stranded, and the other two they scored. It is the improvement in this conversion rate which has made the difference in the latter part of the season.
While the Canadians pitchers did not have a fantastic day, neither did the AquaSox arms. They were not as bad as the C’s, but were nothing above average. Headlined by Brandon Williamson, the Seattle Mariners second-round pick in 2019, Everett was able to strike out nine C’s batter en- route to their victory.
The loss was another hit to Vancouver ever-shrinking playoff aspirations, as they fell gain to three games back of the final playoff spot in the north division.
Game 3 Saturday, August 10th:
In the series rubber match and another national TV broadcast, the Canadians were up against the possibility of seeing their playoffs hopes take a big blow.
On the mound to start for the Canadians was one of the lesser-known arms in Grant Townsend. Although he is not in the top 30 Toronto prospects, Townsend has been very reliable in each and every one of his performances this season for Vancouver. He did not continue his fine form on Saturday, as he allowed four earned runs through less than three innings of baseball. Certainly not his finest work.
For the AquaSox, it was George Kirby footing the rubber, and he had a much better day than his Vancouver counterpart. Through three innings of work Kirby gave up only a pair of hits, and no runs. He was relived ahead of the fourth inning by Matt Martin. No, not the New York Islanders hockey enforcer, but 23 year-old right-hander for the AquaSox.
Things fell off the rails early for the Canadians who allowed four runs in only the second inning of play. Walks, singles and unlucky bounces led to two scoring plays and a quick 4-0 lead for the AquaSox.
For Townsend, he struggled to settle into the game, and many of the batters ate up a lot of pitches. His inefficiencies, alongside some spotty fielding, led to some exhausting defensive work for the Canadians in the early part of Saturday’s matchup. He was relived in the third inning in favour of fan favourite and Canadian Alex Nolan, who promptly allowed the days fifth run, making Vancouver’s task an even tougher one. With Saturday’s game being on TV, one would have hoped that Nolan would shine under the Sportnet lights once again, similarly to how he performed last time he was on TV
Nothing would get better for the Canadians, who continued their slide in the third inning. After Nolan allowed the quick fifth run, he managed to find two outs. Only to follow up with a double from Everett’s Carter Bins which scored ran the score up to an insurmountable seven runs. Between Nolan, Townsend and a lack of luck, the C’s got off to one of their worst starts of 2019.
Townsend did finish with five strikeouts, however, that didn’t matter much as he also gave up six hits.
The fourth inning was a little better for the hosts, a rare bright spot in a game they would like to forget. A double play from second baseman Dom Abbadessa to Brett Wright at first gave the C’s some much-needed momentum after lacklustre fielding in the opening third. Nolan was able to top the inning off with a strikeout as well, making things a little less gloomy for the Vancouver baseball fans.
As much as the brief spell of good fielding did for everyone’s spirits, they have soon dampened yet again as Vancouver gave up another trio of runs in the fifth inning. The frame’s scoring began with a home run off the bat of Bins, and the tenth run came later- only an insult to the already gaping wound. That would spell the end of the line for Nolan, as the former Brock University Badger concluded his day throwing 3.2 innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs.
Joshua Almonte, whose appearances have been sporadic this season was sent out to the mound to finish continue the death march which was the 10-0 game. He did the best of any of the pitchers, although on a night like this one it was not a major accomplishment. Luke Gillingham entered the game for the C’s in the eighth inning, continuing Almonte’s effort to keep the score at 10.
Vancouver cut into the deficit in the sixth inning with a solo home run from Trevor Schweke, although it was too little too late for the Canadians. Despite that, the home crowd cheered on the single-shot like they had won the NWL championship, that is just one of the many things that make the Vancouver baseball experience so special.
Gilligham, in spite of his best efforts, gave up an earned run to give the Aquasox a lead of 11-1 heading into Vancouver’s final at-bat.
The performance all round was not one to remember for the Canadians, who failed to impress on national TV for the first time this season. with the loss, the Canadians find themselves four games back of the playoff bar, and only one away from the notorious five games back, a number which C’s broadcaster Rob Fai describes as insurmountable to recover.
C of the Series:
No player stood out throughout all three games, but the most impressive performance was that of Tanner Morris on the opening day of the series. Morris got himself four RBI, the most he has this season and finished with a pair of multi-base hits.
Morris has been one of the bright spots for the Canadians this season, and his level of play has shot him up the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings. Now in the top 30, Morris has the opportunity to possibly even earn himself a 2019 promotion.
He got a hit in the second game of the series as well and raised his average to a very respectable .250.
Morris has been a good story for the C’s this year, and though he may not be considered a surefire major leaguer like some of his teammates, his play has begun to suggest otherwise.
The Vancouver Canadians now head back out onto the road for a seven-game road trip. they will visit the Eugene Emeralds and the Spokane Indians, in two series that will define their season and if they retain any possibility of a playoff position.