Toronto Blue Jays righthander Marcus Stroman is the talk of the baseball world after no-hitting Puerto Rico for six innings in the USA’s 8-0 victory in the World Baseball Classic championship game at Dodger Stadium. So it’s only fitting that in this edition of C’s Rewind, we turn back the clock to exactly four years and eight months ago when the MVP of the WBC earned his first W in the pro ranks with the C’s.
The Vancouver Canadians found themselves playing out the string in the first half of the Northwest League season as the Everett AquaSox clinched the first-half West Division title. Still, the C’s were looking to build momentum heading into the second half as they hosted the Spokane Indians for a five-game series at Nat Bailey Stadium.
Stroman, the 22nd pick of the 2012 draft from Duke University, reported to Vancouver July 12 after getting a $1.8 million bonus from the Blue Jays nine days earlier. The 5-foot-8 righty had to yet to pitch on Canadian soil as his first three appearances came on the road, pitching exclusively in relief during his first pro season.
Thunder Bay, Ontario native and former UBC Thunderbird Eric Brown got the start for Vancouver. Going for Spokane was the Texas Rangers’ 48th round draft pick in 2011 C.J. Edwards, now known as Carl Edwards Jr. or The String Bean Slinger.
Spokane got to Brown for a run in the first by with four consecutive singles by Hirotoshi Onaka, Gabriel Roa, Cam Schiller and Royce Bolinger to start the game. Brown battled back and held the visitors to just the one run by retiring the next three hitters in a row, striking out future big leaguer Ryan Rua in the process.
The C’s looked to even the score in their half of the first as Ian Parmley led off with an infield single to second. Jorge Flores would take one for the team and both he and Parmley would advance 90 feet on a groundout by Nick Baligod. That was the last time the C’s would put the ball in play as Edwards struck out Balbino Fuenmayor and Jason Leblebijian to end the inning. In fact, Edwards whiffed Carlos Ramirez, Kellen Sweeney and Tucker Frawley in the second and Daniel Arcila in the third to give him six K’s in a row. After Spokane added another run off Brown in the third, that 2-0 lead was looking good for the visitors as the future Chicago Cubs World Series winner finished off his five-inning outing by sitting down 15 in a row.
The C’s would run up against another future big leaguer in Alec Asher as the trade chip for Cole Hamels held Vancouver to just one Fuenmayor single over two frames. Jonathan Lucas did his part to keep the C’s in the game as he delivered three shutout innings of three-hit ball, overcoming a pair of leadoff singles in the fifth and sixth and a two-out base hit in the seventh.
Then it was time for the Stro Show! Stroman entered the game and rung up Barrett Serrato for a called strike three. After inducing a Patrick Cantwell grounder to third, the former Duke Blue Devil got Joe Maloney looking for a 1-2-3 frame.
The afterglow of the Stro-Show woke up the C’s bats as they loaded up the bases on walks by Sweeney and Parmley to sandwich an Arcila single against new Spokane reliever Josh McElwee. Flores got his revenge for being hit by a pitch with a two-run single to center to score Sweeney and Arcila, tying the game at 2-2. Baligod walked to load the bases and McElwee was pulled in favour of Carlos Melo but he couldn’t stop Vancouver’s momentum either as Fuenmayor socked a two-run double off the center field wall to score Parmley and Flores to put the C’s ahead by two. Sweeney would single home Baligod to complete the five-run rally.
The offence woke up in time to give Stroman a chance to win his first ever game in the pros and the Medford, New York native did not disappoint. He retired Saquan Johnson on a lineout to Parmley in center before striking out Onaka and getting Roa to ground out to Flores at short to end the ball game, giving the C’s a 5-2 victory.
The pilot episode of The Stro Show at The Nat was a hit for the C’s back in 2012. Here’s hoping Season Six finishes with Stroman helping the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series championship in 2017.