“Oh no, it’s raining again
and you know it’s hard to pretend” – Supertramp
The Vancouver Canadians grounds crew did their best to get their final two home games of 2016 played but Mother Nature refused to cooperate. The two games against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes Thursday evening and Friday afternoon were ultimately scrubbed, effectively clinching the season series for the Giants affiliate five games to three.
A steady rain kept falling during pregame warmups and it had lightened up for a few minutes before it got heavier and heavier as game time approached. The new recruits for the C’s, righthander Jared Carkuff, first baseman David Jacob and catcher Owen Spiwak arrived in town from the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays along with free-agent lefthander Taylor Durand, formerly of the Western Carolina Catamounts. Here is a scouting video on him. I had no idea who Durand was until I went up to the press box to collect the game notes. I did take some pictures when he took off his warmup jacket, revealing his number 28, which you can see above. Speaking of numbers, Spiwak was given Cavan Biggio‘s #4, Carkuff was assigned J.B Woodman‘s #6 and Jacob was wearing Geno Encina‘s #23. As for #28, that was worn by Denis Diaz briefly and Joshua Palacios, for one game. The more you know!
Jacob and Spiwak were in the starting lineup with Jacob batting clean-up at first base and Spiwak batting ninth as the designated hitter. Luis Sanchez got the start for the C’s and he set down the side in order in the first. In the bottom half, Bryan Lizardo worked a one-out walk against Volcanoes starter Stephen Woods but Jacob flied out to end the inning. The Volcanoes got their first baserunner in the form of a double and that runner moved to third on a wild pitch. However, Sanchez managed to strand the runner and get out of the inning. The C’s got four men up to the plate, leaving Spiwak in the on-deck circle, hopeful of an at-bat to start the third. I was in the press box at this time to get the game notes and get out of the rain, planning to head back down again for Spiwak’s first plate appearance with the C’s.
Sanchez struck out the first hitter he faced in the top of the third, his third K of the game, before the game was halted and ultimately postponed due to the heavy rain. I overheard public address announcer Don Andrews saying there was no way this game would continue and sure enough, the tarp came on the field moments after. With the forecast calling for more rain tomorrow, I wondered if Sanchez’s strikeout would be the last baseball action at the Nat for 2016.
The game was suspended with the final seven innings to be played Friday afternoon before the regularly scheduled game, shortened to a seven-inning affair, as part of a doubleheader. The rain continued overnight before letting up around the scheduled game time of 1:05. However, the grounds crew had trouble getting the field back up to snuff and that led to a delay in the proceedings. Two hours passed by and it was ruled the field was unplayable, causing the umpires to cancel the doubleheader. As a result, the stats from Thursday’s shortened game do not count. I tried to find them again online and they have been wiped. That means Sanchez’s solid 2-1/3-inning stint in which he threw 92-94 MPH (the speeds of two of his K’s) does not count. Lizardo’s walk did not happen. Jacob’s first at-bat at the Nat never took place. Spiwak was never there, period. That fact was nicely documented in this story.
I felt sorry for the C’s organization because that was a rotten way for the year to end. There was lots of disappointment and outrage from fans on Twitter but what could be done, other than installing a retractable roof? Before this, there had only been eight rain-outs in C’s history since joining the Northwest League in 2000 according to broadcaster Rob Fai. Unfortunately, the team’s luck ran out and it almost seemed to be a fitting end to a rough 2016 on the field, a year that saw Vancouver set a franchise-worst record in losses. However, the C’s set another attendance record as over 217,000 fans came out to Nat Bailey Stadium. The only silver lining for fans in attendance was their ticket stubs for the last two games can be redeemed for 2017, subject to availability.
The C’s carried on to Pasco, Washington where the weather did cooperate and they opened the three-game set with a convincing 8-0 victory over the Tri-City Dust Devils. An RBI double by Bryan Lizardo scored a leadoff base hit by Rodrigo Orozco and Nash Knight plated Lizardo with a bases-loaded walk in the first. Christian Williams made it 3-0 with an RBI single to score a Yeltsin Gudino double. An RBI double by Juan Tejada, a two-run single by Knight and a sacrifice fly by Williams scored four in the seventh before Knight singled home another run in the eighth. Orozco, Knight and Deiferson Barreto had two hits apiece. Lizardo had a hit and three walks. Jacob Anderson had three walks while Tejada reached base three times with two walks.
Patrick Murphy threw 91 pitches, which only got him 4-1/3 innings of three-hit, four walk ball with two strikeouts. Griffin Glaude came into the game with the bases loaded and got out of the fifth unscathed. He only gave up a hit and a walk while striking out five over 2-2/3 innings to get the win. Zach Jackson struck out the side in the eighth and Nick Hartman finished up with a clean ninth.
The C’s looked to clinch the season series after winning five of six against the Dust Devils at home and winning its first game in Pasco in four tries the night before. Dalton Rodriguez, who endured a rough August in which he went 0-3 with a 9.58 earned run average, bounced back with five innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out three.
Rodriguez was in position for the win after the offence built a 4-1 lead after 5-1/2 innings. Rodrigo Orozco started the game with a single off former Jays farmhand Hansel Rodriguez and later scored on an error. David Jacob picked up his first hit with Vancouver with a double to left in the third, resulting in an arm injury to Tri-City left field Josh Magee. Jacob would score on a Nash Knight base hit. D.J. McKnight drove in a run in the fifth with a single to score another Knight base rap to give the C’s a 3-1 lead. Brett Wellman began the sixth with a walk and scored on a Jacob triple.
Taylor Durand made his C’s debut in the bottom of the sixth and it did not go well. He walked the leadoff man and after a popup to short, an error by McKnight in center put two runners on. A wild pitch, a run-scoring groundout, a single, a walk and a run-scoring single led to Durand’s exit. Jared Carkuff then made his Vancouver debut but he was greeted by a run-scoring single to tie the game at 4-4 before inducing a fouled bunt attempt to catcher Andres Sotillo to end the inning.
McKnight, whose error resulted in three unearned runs for Durand, atoned for his clank with a home run in the seventh, his second, to put the C’s back in front at 5-4. Carkuff could not preserve the lead as he surrendered a Buddy Reed leadoff triple before scoring on a groundout.
Gabe Noyalis entered the game in the eighth and struck out a couple of batters to retire the side in order. He gave up two singles and had runners on second and third thanks to a stolen base and defensive indifference but he whiffed two more batters to keep the game tied.
Vancouver had runners on in the eighth and ninth in the form of a Wellman walk and a Knight single but Knight was thrown out trying to steal second. The C’s were retired in order in the tenth.
Grayson Huffman relieved Noyalis and the Dust-Devils used a single, a sacrifice bunt and another single to put runners on the corners before Huffman uncorked a wild pitch to allow the game-losing run to score in a 6-5 setback.
Knight had three hits while Jacob and McKnight had two apiece. Deiferson Barreto singled and stole a base.
The Canadians had one more shot at winning the series and the season series against the Dust Devils in the season finale and it looked good for the visitors when they scored three times in their first at-bat. Rodrigo Orozco drew a leadoff walk and went to third on a Bryan Lizardo single. David Jacob followed with another base hit to score Orozco. A Nash Knight fielder’s choice and a Deiferson Barreto triple brought in Lizardo and Jacob.
Denis Diaz got the starting assignment and it went horribly awry. He walked the bases loaded to begin the first before throwing a run-scoring wild pitch. A sacrifice fly made it a one-run game. Diaz got the first two men he faced in the second but a single, a stolen base, a double and an error by Lizardo at third resulted in Tri-City taking a 4-3 lead.
Diaz lasted three-plus innings before giving way to Nate Abel, who stranded a runner and pitched three shutout innings. Evan Smith struck out the side in the seventh but the Dust-Devils scored two insurance runs to make it 6-3. Jackson McClelland struck out one in a one-hit eighth but the C’s could not do anything offensively as they would drop a 6-3 decision, settling for a split of their 12-game season series in which both teams posted 5-1 records on their home soil.
The C’s finished the second half with a record of 13-23, a half-game ahead of the Spokane Indians for third place in the North Division, one game behind the Dust-Devils but 13 behind the first-place Everett AquaSox. Vancouver finished with an overall record of 29-45, their worst season in its A-ball history.
The Northwest League final four is down to Everett and Spokane in the North and the Eugene Emeralds and the two-time champion Hillsboro Hops in the South. I have a feeling this year’s league final will be brought to you by the letter ‘E’ but anything can happen in a three-game series.
Now the countdown is on for 2017. The schedule, according to this story, is expected to be released in the coming days so that’s something to keep an eye out for.
I would like to thank Rob Fai and the Vancouver Canadians organization for allowing me media access again this season to take photos on behalf of Batter’s Box and this fledgling blog. There will be more stuff coming up on both sites in the next little while so please keep checking back. Until then, let’s go Blue Jays!