The Vancouver Canadians live to fight another day thanks to a come-from-behind walk-off 8-7 win over the Tri-City Dust Devils at Nat Bailey Stadium Wednesday night. The Canadians kept their slim playoff hopes alive with the win as they gained ground on Tri-City and Everett after the AquaSox lost to the North Division-leading Spokane Indians. The C’s need to win their remaining five games and hope the first-half North Division champion Indians win the second half. In that scenario, whoever finishes second in the second-half division race will advance to the postseason. Vancouver improved to 5-1 on the season under the lights of Sportsnet which televised the game nationally.
Monty’s Mounties got the first run of the game courtesy of a long ball off the bat of McGregory Contreras as he cracked one over the fence in left-center off Ethan Elliott to lead off the second inning. Cameron Eden would single with one out but he would not make it any further.
Tri-City was able to solve Adam Kloffenstein in the fifth inning. Jonny Homza started the frame with a double to center. Mason House had an infield single to third but Jesus Lopez made a throwing error on a tough play that allowed Homza to score the tying run and House to move into scoring position. Jason Pineda struck out and Matthew Acosta grounded out to second to move House to third. Jordy Barley walked before a wild pitch by Kloffenstein led to House coming home with the go-ahead run. Reinaldo Ilarraza struck out to end the threat.
The Canadians came back to tie it up in the bottom of the fifth. Brett Wright said hello to Dust Devils reliever Wen-Hua Sung with a double down the left field line. Luis De Los Santos lined one up the middle but Wright had to make sure the ball got through the infield as he initially retreated to second before running over to third. A one-out sacrifice fly by Lopez allowed Wright to tag up and score the tying run.
Tri-City would move out in front again on the first pitch of the sixth when Logan Driscoll drilled one over the big fence in right field off Kloffenstein. The big right-hander would get the next three hitters in a row to end his outing.
Gage Burland took over for Kloffenstein in the seventh and rung up Mason House on strikes but a Pineda walk and an Acosta single started the trouble for the former Gonzaga hurler. A base hit to center by Barley scored Pineda and ended the night for Burland. Left-hander Nicolas Medina came into the game and saw Acosta and Barley move up 90 feet on a Wright passed ball. Ilarraza walked to load the bases before a sacrifice fly to center by Driscoll plated Barley to make it 5-2 Dust Devils. Barley and Ilarraza also tagged up and moved up 90 feet but Medina stranded them by striking out Sean Guilbe.
The Canadians answered back in their half of the seventh. Will Robertson rocked a double off the center field wall before De Los Santos drew a one-out walk to chase Sung from the game. Deacon Medders took over for Tri-City and like Medina, was victimized by a passed ball as Homza had one get by him to move Robertson and De Los Santos into scoring range. Tanner Morris walked to load the bases but Lopez went down swinging for the second out. Spencer Horwitz would single to second to score De Los Santos. Barley tried to make a late flip to Ilarraza covering from short but the ball rolled away. Contreras would then come through with a two-out single to cash in De Los Santos and Morris. Horwitz got caught in a rundown between second and third but he avoided the tag on the 8-5 putout just long enough to allow Morris to cross the plate with the tying run.
Luke Gillingham relieved Medina to begin the eighth and handed out a leadoff walk to Jack Stronach. The former Navy moundsman induced a pop-up to the mound off the bat of Homza before Tri-City looked to have delivered a chair shot to the back of the head. That’s when House took Gillingham deep over the wall in right to take a 7-5 lead.
The C’s appeared to be down and out with two outs in the bottom of the eighth but Robertson drew a walk against Medders and scooted up to second on a wild pitch. Wright then lined a single to left to bring in Robertson to make it a one-run game but Wright was nailed at second on a 7-6-4 play for the third out.
Gillingham worked around a one-out bunt single by Ilarraza up the first base in the top of the ninth to give the offense one last shot. De Los Santos started the bottom of the ninth with an opposite-field single to right and Tanner Morris was plunked to put two runners on. The Dust Devils held a mound conference and that appeared to give Canadians manager Casey Candaele a chance to plot strategy with Lopez who was due up next. Lopez squared around to bunt on a 1-0 pitch but then swung away as he lined a single to left over the drawn-in infield to score De Los Santos with the tying run.
Guelph, Ontario righty Jake Sims replaced Medders on the pitching rubber and got Horwitz to pop up to first before striking out Contreras for the second out. It all came down to Ryan Sloniger and the former Penn State Nittany Lion picked a great time for his first hit of the night as he pulled a ball to right field to score Morris with the walk-off run.
Radar Gun Rundown
Kloffenstein clicked the gun at 77, 79-85, 87 and 89-94 miles per hour with strikeouts at 94, 85, 94, 81, 80 and 82. Burland registered with offerings of 73-75, 77, 82, 83 and 92 with a K of 91. Medina made pitches at 75, 80, 81, 89 and 90 with a strikeout at 75. Gillingham got them over at 69-71, 75, 76 and 81-85 with whiffs of 72 and 85.
Wright gave Kloffenstein an early boost by throwing out Barley trying to steal second after his single to third started the game.
The third inning saw Kloffenstein get into his first jam when he plunked House with a pitch and surrendered a one-out hit to Acosta but he struck out the side by getting Pineda, Barley and Ilarraza all swinging.
De Los Santos started his 3-for-3 night with a walk by singling to right to start the third but he was picked off by Elliott on a caught stealing attempt of second. Lopez would later reach base on a two-out single to short when Ilarraza nearly lost his balance but he recovered to make a late throw. Horwitz hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Lopez made a nice play by picking the ball on a short hop at third and made a strong throw to retire Driscoll to begin the top of the fourth inning.
Vancouver got another runner aboard to start their half of the fourth when Guilbe botched a ground ball by Contreras but nothing else developed for the home side.
Kloffenstein’s final regular season start in Vancouver was a good one. He struck out eight and was charged with three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk while getting five groundball outs.
Lopez, Contreras and Wright had two-hit nights for the C’s. Only Morris was shutout in the hit column but he did draw a walk and took one for the team before scoring the winning run.
The Northwest League transactions page shows Oakville, Ontario outfielder Dasan Brown getting “promoted” from the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays to Vancouver. However, the transaction involving Toronto’s 2019 third-round pick is merely a paper move according to Canadians officials. Another paper move involved pitcher Randy Pondler who was on the C’s roster briefly before getting called back up to Lansing.
Alex Nolan is scheduled to throw the first pitch for Vancouver at 7:05 pm against Tri-City Thursday. Nick Thwaits gets the call for the Dust Devils. The game can be heard on Sportsnet 650 and CanadiansBaseball.com with Rob Fai.