The Vancouver Canadians accomplished a few firsts in 2019 Sunday afternoon. Their 5-4 walk-off victory over Spokane at Nat Bailey Stadium gave the C’s its first winning streak of the year and its first series triumph as they took the rubber match of their three-game set. The walk-off triumph was the first in two seasons for the C’s after the 2018 squad was shut out in the Gatorade shower department.
Spokane scored first off C’s starter Juan Diaz in the fourth inning. The trouble started on a one-out single by Obie Ricumstrict. It looked like Ricumstrict was going to be picked off when Diaz threw to first but C’s shortstop Luis De Los Santos could not hang on to an off-line throw by Yorman Rodriguez at first. Ricumstrict got around the bases on a pair of balls that did not leave the infield. A groundout to third by Jonah McReynolds and an infield single to short by Starling Joseph brought Ricumstrict home. That run scored despite a valiant effort from De Los Santos but Joseph slid headfirst into the first base bag safely.
Vancouver responded in their half of the fourth when Rodriguez tied the game by belting his first home run into the left field porch off Josh Javier. That was the C’s first home run at home this season and just the second overall.
Diaz kept the game tied for Vancouver with a scoreless fifth and Joshua Almonte did the same by putting up two zeros. However, Spokane grabbed the lead off Gage Burland in the eighth.
Pinch-hitter Kenen Irizzary led off with a base hit and made it to third when a Kellen Strahm sacrifice bunt was thrown out of play by Burland to put Strahm at second. Cristian Inoa scorched one up the middle to plate Irizzary with the go-ahead run. Inoa then stole second base and Burland fell behind 3-and-0 to Tanner Gardner before he was given an intentional pass. A Ricumstrict sacrifice fly scored Inoa with the third Spokane run.
Burland’s woes continued when he plunked McReynolds to load the bases. The C’s had a chance to turn an inning-ending double play on a grounder by Joseph but Tanner Morris double-clutched on his relay throw to first so the 6-4 fielder’s choice resulted in Inoa crossing the dish to put Spokane ahead by three.
With the prospect of another series loss staring at the C’s, they got to work in the home half of the eighth. Cameron Eden singled and Morris heard ball four before a one-out single by Rodriguez scored Eden and chased Jeifry Nunez from the contest. Werner Leal loaded the bases by walking Trevor Schwecke but was an out away from escaping after getting McGregory Contreras to pop out to short. Ryan Sloniger picked up Contreras by delivering a two-run single to right to plate Eden and Morris to tie the game at 4-4.
Davis Schneider was the next batter and he doubled his season total from one to two but unfortunately, the batted ball on the left side of the infield hit Schwecke on the foot for the third out.
Spokane was knocking on the door in the ninth when Grayson Huffman when Maxwell Morales worked a leadoff walk but pinch-runner Jake Hoover was picked off by the C’s lefty and he wound up facing the minimum in the frame.
Leal returned to the mound for Spokane in the ninth and his second pitch of the inning plunked Adrian Ramos. Eden joined Ramos on base by bunting a ball up the first base side and made it uncontested as nobody in an Indians uniform covered the bag. Leal continued losing the plot by walking Morris on four straight pitches to fill the bases. De Los Santos stepped up and lifted a deep enough fly ball to score Ramos for the walk-off celebration.
Radar Gun Rundown
Diaz struck out batters with 82 and 81 MPH offerings. He had pitches in the 86-90 range, 81-85 and 71-74. Almonte recorded strikeouts of 84 and 85. He was as low as 82 and 83 and up to 93-97. Burland ranged from 78, 86 and 88-89 and was up to 93-95. Huffman was at 77 and up to 90, 92 and 94.
Eden had an interesting time on the basepaths after his first inning walk. He quickly dove back to the first base bag after Morris lined one to first but was nearly doubled off on a fly ball to right off the bat of De Los Santos.
The C’s made a nice pair of defensive plays to close out the second. De Los Santos charged a slow roller at short and made a strong throw to get Ventura. Then Eden covered a lot of ground to run down a fly ball to retire Morales.
Vancouver had just two walks over the first three innings as Ramos got aboard with a one-out walk but he was picked off by Javier.
It looked like the C’s frustration with the bats would continue in the fourth when Morris was robbed of a hit as Strahm made a diving catch on a sinking liner to right field. Two batters later, Rodriguez gave Vancouver its first hit with a home run.
Contreras began the fifth by launching a double in front of the manual scoreboard in center field but Nunez got Sloniger and Schneider on strikeouts and Ramos on a groundout.
The seventh inning saw Vancouver threaten to take the lead when Rodriguez drilled one up the middle that nearly hit Nunez to start the frame. Rodriguez would get to third when Contreras singled to center and he advanced an extra base after a bobble by Joseph in center field. Sloniger grounded out to first on a nice pick by Gardner but Schneider extended the rally by walking to load the bases. Ramos was unable to bring home anybody as he flied out to end the uprising.
The Canadians host the Hillsboro Hops on Canada Day Monday in the opener of a three-game series at the Nat. First pitch is at 7:05 pm. Nick Fraze is set to take the ball and he should be followed by the pride of Burlington, Ontario Alex Nolan.
Tuesday’s game with Adam Kloffenstein goes at 7:05 pm and Wednesday afternoon’s contest with Grant Townsend takes place at 1:05 pm.
2012 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Marcus Stroman is a 2019 MLB All-Star. He will represent the Toronto Blue Jays at this year’s event in Cleveland. Stroman suffered a left pectoral cramp during his start against Kansas City Saturday but optimism abounds he will spend time on the injured list.