The Vancouver Canadians have put themselves in position to win their first series of 2021. They won their third in a row over the Spokane Indians with an 8-2 triumph at Ron Tonkin Field Friday.
Spokane got to C’s starter Nick Fraze just four pitches in by putting runners at the corners on singles by Eddy Diaz and Hunter Stovall. Fraze got ahead of Brenton Doyle with one ball and two strikes but Doyle put the ball in play on the seventh pitch of the at-bat with an RBI groundout that scored Diaz. Michael Toglia then lined out to shortstop Luis De Los Santos as he beat Stovall back to the second base bag for the unassisted double play.
Things went much better for Fraze as he needed just seven pitches to set down the Colorado Rockies affiliate in order. The Vancouver offence responded when clean-up hitter Ryan Gold doubled to left field off Karl Kauffman for the C’s first baserunner of the night. Philip Clarke pushed Gold to third on a infield single to second but Clarke was forced out on the front end of a 4-6-3 double play ball off the bat of Spencer Horwitz. On the play, Gold crossed the plate to tie the game at 1-1.
The Canadians went back on offence quickly in the third inning after Fraze needed just eight pitches to retire Spokane in the top half of the frame. Tanner Kirwer was dropped down to the ninth spot in the batting order by manager Donnie Murphy and the Sherwood Park, Alberta native responded by lining a one-out single to left to snap an 0-for-8 drought. He stole second and came around to score on a De Los Santos base hit up the middle.
The fourth inning started well for Fraze as he struck out his first two batters of the night but Toglia lifted a wind-blown fly ball to left that struck the fair pole (why it’s called the foul pole is one of life’s great mysteries) to even up the game at 2-2. For Toglia—the 2019 first round pick from UCLA—all five of his hits this year have been home runs with his first four coming against Eugene.
Fraze rebounded by striking out the side to end the fourth and kept on keeping on with another three-up, three-down inning in the fifth that began with another punchout. Kirwer started another one-out rally with a base knock up the gut and stole second again before a Kauffman balk allowed Kirwer to move up another 90 feet. De Los Santos was hit in the hand by a pitch and that was the end of the night for Kauffmann. Tanner Morris‘ ground ball off Boby Johnson found a hole on the right side of the infield to score Kirwer to help Vancouver regain the lead at 3-2.
Spokane tried to rally against Fraze in the sixth when L.J. Hatch singled to right to put the leadoff man aboard. Diaz was the next batter but he was injured on a foul bunt attempt that led to the exit of not just Diaz but Spokane skipper Scott Little who argued that Diaz was hit by the pitch and should have been awarded first base. Instead, Niko Decolati had to pinch-hit and wound up striking out. A grounder to second by Stovall put Hatch in scoring position but Fraze put the exclaimation point of his strong six innings by getting Doyle to swing and miss on three straight pitches to strand Hatch.
The seventh inning saw Spokane get another runner in scoring position as John Cresto worked a full-count walk with two away against C’s reliever Parker Caracci. A passed ball by Clarke put Cresto at second but Cade Harris was robbed of an RBI when Kirwer laid out for a diving catch in center to preserve Vancouver’s one-run lead.
In the home half of the seventh, De Los Santos and Morris both singled to put themselves on the corners before a Cameron Eden 1-6 fielder’s choice scored De Los Santos with the C’s fourth run of the night.
After Caracci stranded a leadoff walk to Daniel Cope in the eighth, Vancouver put the hammer down on the visitors in the bottom half of the frame. Clarke hit the first pitch from Luke Chevalier for a double to center and went to third on a Cope passed ball. Ronny Brito and Rafael Lantigua worked a pair of one-out walks on full-count offerings to load the bases and send Chevalier packing. Moises Ceja entered the game and was lit up by Kirwer who crushed a grand slam to left-centre field to put the C’s ahead by six.
Hagen Danner wrapped things up in the ninth with a clean inning that included a strikeout. According to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel, Danner lit up the radar gun with a 94 mile per hour fastball along with an off-speed offering at 76.
De Los Santos, Morris and Clarke led the hit parade with two hits apiece with the first two driving in a run and the latter extending his on-base streak to eight games. Morris was hit by a pitch by Kauffman after De Los Santos’ RBI single in the third inning. Davis Schneider pinch-hit for the former Virginia Cavalier but struck out in the eighth. He took over for Morris defensively at second base.
Another defensive replacement happened in the top of the seventh when Lantigua subbed in for L.J. Talley at third base. Talley grounded out to first base in the last at-bat of the sixth inning to conclude an 0-for-3 evening. Lantigua and Brito drew the only walks of the night for Vancouver and they scored on the Kirwer grand slam.
Kirwer has tied Diaz for the stolen base lead in the High-A West circuit with seven. Kirwer has been only caught once while Diaz has been thrown out twice. Eden is one behind the co-leaders as he is 6-for-6 on the year. Also, Kirwer remains in the league’s top 10 in batting average at .324, just nine points behind Gold as team leader.
De Los Santos finds himself in a three-way tie for the RBI lead with nine along with Toglia and Everett’s Kaden Polcovich.
On the pitching side, Fraze picked up his second win of the season. He is on a strikeout-per-inning pace as he has 11 whiffs in 11 innings so far. He was pretty efficient and threw lots of strikes as he threw 50 of his 70 pitches for strikes against Spokane. The former Bobcat from Texas State has yet to walk a batter in his three appearances this year.
The High-A West transactions page says outfielder Eric Rivera will be joining the Vancouver roster. The 6-foot-0, 185-pound right-hander hitter has been promoted from Dunedin after hitting .474 in 19 at-bats with five stolen bases in as many attempts. The Toronto Blue Jays selected Rivera in the 14th round of the 2019 MLB draft from Florida Atlantic. He began his pro career that year in Bluefield where he had a .378 on-base percentage and stole seven bases without getting caught.
Adam Kloffenstein gets the ball for Vancouver as the C’s attempt to secure a series win over Spokane in the fifth game of this six-game series. First pitch is at 7:05 pm. The game can be heard on CanadiansBaseball.com with Tyler Zickel calling the action. In addition to his play-by-play duties, Zickel is the new host of the Around the Nest podcast taking over for Jesse Goldberg-Strassler as his Lansing Lugnuts experienced a change of major league affiliates with Oakland taking over for Toronto. Zickel is no stranger to when it comes to tough acts to follow, not only replacing Goldberg-Strassler but taking over for Rob Fai as the C’s new play-by-play man but so far, Zickel has been up to the challenge and is making his own mark by doing terrific work calling the action.
C’s Alumni Report
2017 C’s infielder Cullen Large had a hit, two walks and a run scored and 2017 catcher Riley Adams contributed a sacrifice fly, a walk and a run scored as Buffalo topped Rochester 3-1. Richard Ureña (2014) singled and Nash Knight (2016) heard ball four once. Dany Jiménez (2017) stranded a runner and worked around two hits and a walk with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning.
2018 Canadians infielder Otto Lopez is now hitting .349 with Double-A New Hampshire. Getting the start in center field, Lopez went 4-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored as the Fisher Cats stomped Somerset 7-3. Brock Lundquist (2017) singled to start the fourth inning for New Hampshire but was replaced by 2017 teammate Reggie Pruitt in right field. Pruitt’s eighth-inning single scored Lopez with New Hampshire’s fourth run for his first hit at the Double-A level. Vinny Capra (2018) had a two-run double and started a 7-6-4 double play. The C’s shortstop did make four appearances in center field for New Hampshire two years ago. Left-hander Brody Rodning (2017) gave up an unearned run as the result of his own throwing error but he walked just one over three hitless innings while ringing up four batters to earn his first hold. His earned run average is still at zero after four appearances in which he has struck out 11 batters over nine innings.
2019 C’s righty Winder Garcia gave up two solo home runs among three allowed over four innings of work as Dunedin fell to Bradenton 8-4. Though he allowed four hits and a walk, he did strike out three to go along with five groundball outs. Ryan Sloniger (2019) drew a walk and scored a run.
The Toronto Blue Jays injury woes continue. They will be without 2014-2015 C’s lefty Ryan Borucki as he goes on the injured list with a forearm flexor strain. Also, right-hander Nate Pearson (2017) will miss his next start at Triple-A Buffalo because of a shoulder impingement.