The Vancouver Canadians opened 2017 with a victory at P.K. Park in Eugene. (Photo courtesy of @VanCanadians).
The Vancouver Canadians have already matched their win total from last year against the Eugene Emeralds. After dropping nine of 10 to the Em’s last season, the C’s knocked off the defending Northwest League champions by a score of 6-1 Thursday night at P.K. Park.
Juan Nunez set the tone early with a broken-bat grounder to second to start the game and did not give up any hard contact in the first two innings, ending the second frame with his first strikeout.
After getting hits in the first two innings, the C’s broke through in the third when Reggie Pruitt doubled to the opposite field in right on a 3-1 pitch to score singles by Deiferson Barreto and Kevin Vicuna, who were pushed into scoring position on a bunt by Lance Jones who placed the ball up the third base side.
Pruitt and Jones nearly collided with each other in right-center field in the bottom of the third but Jones made the catch to end the inning and strand a runner.
The C’s tried to build their lead in the top of the fourth but Bryan Lizardo was robbed of an extra-base on a Kevin Pillar-type diving catch in left-center field by Connor Myers. Mattingly Romanin reached on an error but was thrown out trying to steal second. Owen Spiwak then followed up with a double but he would be left stranded. Scoring more runs that inning was just not meant to be.
Nunez overcame an infield single in the fourth but he had trouble brewing in the fifth when he the first two batters got aboard on a single and a hit by pitch with a wild pitch in between. Jhonny Bethencourt tried to lay down a bunt and it went off his foot in the batter’s box. It should have been ruled a dead ball but C’s catcher Yorman Rodriguez pounced on the ball and threw it to third base to force out the runner from second.
The Emeralds’ best chance to get back in the game came in the fifth when they loaded up the bases against Nunez with one out. Before the bases were drunk, Eugene had runners on first and second on a single and a hit by pitch with a wild pitch in between to start the inning. Nunez would issue a walk to load the bases but he managed to right himself by striking out the next two hitters. His first strikeout came on a pitch that appeared to move like a split-fingered offering. The second came on a high fastball. Rodriguez tapped the ground with the glove three times before the pitch which would indicate he wanted the pitch down in the zone. Either Nunez missed the sign or Rodriguez was trying to throw off the batter but it worked as the C’s kept the Em’s off the board.
Rodriguez – who had the season’s first hit for Vancouver – would double a Norberto Obeso base hit to third base to begin the fifth and both runners would score on wild pitches to make it 4-0 C’s.
William Ouellette relieved Nunez to start the fifth and was bailed out by his defence. Joe Matarano drew a one-out walk and tried to score on a double to right-center but Jones, Barreto and Rodriguez executed a 9-4-2 play to get Matarano out at the plate. Rodriguez had dived back to the plate from the first base side to tag out the runner.
Jose Espada came in for the seventh and struck out the side swinging in order. The C’s would tack on two more runs when a pair of one-out walks by Lizardo and Romanin came around to score on groundouts by groundouts by Barreto and Vicuna, who I believe was robbed of a hit on a bang-bang play at first.
The Emeralds scored their first run of the night on a solo home run to Aramis Ademan but Espada bounced back by whiffing two to give him five on the night. Orlando Pascual struck out one in a perfect ninth to seal the deal for the C’s.
Vancouver had 13 hits with two each from Rodriguez, Spiwak, Barreto, Vicuna and Jones. Pruitt and Romanin had a single and a walk apiece. Rodriguez was robbed of a third hit on a catch at the warning track by Myers. That offensive output was more than enough to offset three caught stealings and a pickoff at first.
One more note, Chavez Young saw his first Northwest League action by pinch-running for Spiwak after he doubled in the eighth.
Dalton Rodriguez gets the start in the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Kyle Weatherly, Wilfri Aleton and Dany Jimenez are listed as the probable starters for the other three contests. All games are at 7:05 pm except for Sunday at 1:05 and they can be seen at MiLB.TV or heard at CanadiansBaseball.com.