The Vancouver Canadians stopped a four-game losing streak and ended 2021 on a winning note with an 8-2 victory over Ron Tonkin Field Sunday.
The Canadians started the scoring against Hops starter Shumepi Yoshikawa when Tanner Morris lifted a 1-0 pitch over the right field fence for a one-out solo homer.
The Hops got that one back when A.J. Vukovich opened the second inning with a leadoff single off C’s starter Alejandro Melean and stole second base with one out. After a Nick Dalesandro walk, Axel Andueza came up with a base hit to score Vukovich.
Vancouver regained the lead in the third. Eric Rivera blooped a single to center field to lead things off and went to second on a.one-out wild pitch. Philip Clarke then lined a single to right with two outs to score Rivera but Clarke was nailed on a 9-6 play at second to end the inning.
That lead only lasted for three pitches as Vukovich opened the fourth with a home run to left-center off Melean to tie the game at 2-2.
Rivera would ignite another rally in the fifth when he singled to left with one out. A walk by Zac Cook and a base hit to left by Tanner Morris loaded the bases and that led to Hops manager Vince Harrison replaced Yoshikawa with Jose Santamaria. That move backfired on Harrison as Santamaria walked Clarke which forced home Rivera with the go-ahead run. Davis Schneider then drilled a double to left to score Cook and Morris to increase Vancouver’s lead to 5-2. A ground ball to first from Addison Barger produced two more runs as Tristin English‘s throwing error scored Clarke and Schneider to make it a five-run advantage for the C’s.
Rivera rallied the C’s to their final run of 2021. He singled to right off Austin Pope with one out in the sixth and he was pushed up to second on a Justin Ammons walk. A passed ball by Luvin Valbuena moved Rivera and Cook up 90 feet before Rivera managed to score on a strikeout by Trevor Schwecke. Once Valbuena made the throw down to first to complete the strikeout, Rivera raced home to score Vancouver’s eighth run.
The C’s had another baserunner in the first inning after Tanner Morris’ home run when Schneider reached base on a strikeout/wild pitch with two outs but he was stranded when Barger struck out.
Schneider was on base again when he drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and got into scoring position with two outs on a wild pitch but P.K. Morris struck out swinging.
Will Robertson had the last base hit of 2021 for Vancouver with a two-out single to center off Mailon Arroyo in the seventh but Arroyo struck out the side. Yaramil Hiraldo set down the C’s in order in the eighth.
Rivera celebrated his 24th birthday withe three hits and three runs scored. Tanner Morris socked his seventh homer of the season among his two hits and also scored twice. He was replaced by Schwecke at second base in the sixth inning.
Schneider contributed a two-run double and a walk and Clarke also had a knock and a walk before Andres Guerra replaced him behind the plate in the eighh.
Cook drew a walk and scored a run before giving way to Ammons in left field in the sixth. Cook finished the year with a .902 on-base percentage.
Harrison Ray was the designated hitter but he finished 0-for-4. The C’s were 3-for-10 in the RISP department and left five men on base.
Melean earned his first win in a Vancouver uniform by pitching 5-2/3 innings and giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out three and got seven of his eight outs in play on the fake dirt.
Melean worked around a one-out ground-rule double and a steal of third by Ronny Simon int he first by sandwiching a pair of strikeouts from Jorge Barrosa and Blaze Alexander and getting English to pop out to short. Melean also limited the Hops to a single run by getting consecutive pop-ups to second to strand a Dalesandro walk and Andueza’s RBI knock.
After a 1-2-3 third inning, Melean allowed a one-out single by Dalesandro after serving up a homer to Vukovich but Clarke threw out Dalesandro trying to steal second. Andueza kept the inning going with a base hit but Melean got Leodany Perez to ground out to third to keep the Hops from putting up a crooked number on the scoreboard.
A throwing error by Schneider at third allowed Alexander to reach base and extend the fifth inning but Melean got English to pop up to Schneider in foul territory to end the frame.
Melean gave up a one-out double to Cam Coursey in the sixth before retiring Dalesandro on a comebacker to the mound. Justin Maese came into the game and he stranded Coursey at third by getting Andueza to ground out to second.
Maese got into a jam in the seventh when Perez and Barrosa both singled but Simon hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice before getting Alexander to fly out to Ammons in shallow left field before Ammons made a diving catch on an English fly ball for the third out.
Gabriel Ponce worked the eighth and worked around a Coursey one-out walk by striking out Elijah Greene and Valbeuna both looking.
Hagen Danner took care of the ninth on seven pitches, retiring Jose Curpa on a fly out to left to end the ball game.
Vancouver finished their season at 55-64, a half-game behind Hillsboro for fourth place in the High-A West.
The Canadians ended the season by continuing to dominate on Sundays by winning 14 of 20 series finales. A record like that on Sundays is enough to make the Detroit Lions jealous and I can say that being a long-suffering Lions fan. Sunday’s win also prevented the C’s from being swept in a series in 2021. The Canadians next-best day was Thursday when they went 12-8.
A couple of other interesting stats from the C’s press notes. The club lead the High-A West by hitting .280 with runners in scoring position but that did not help them when it came to trailing after eight innings as they were 0-59. When Vancouver lead after eight, it was pretty much money in the bank as the club won 48 of 49 in that situation.
The C’s did not enjoy the confines of Ron Tonkin Field as they were 34-42 as the host and road team but were 20-22 everywhere else. Here’s hoping a return to Nat Bailey Stadium next season reverses those fortunes.
Congratulations to the Vancouver Canadians organization at Nat Bailey and Ron Tonkin Field for getting through the 2021 season under the most trying of circumstances. A special tip of the cap to play-by-play announcer Tyler Zickel for filling the big shoes of Rob Fai behind the mic and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler as the new host for the Around the Nest podcast.
With all that said, I am glad the season is finally over. I was looking forward to watching live baseball here this year after the pandemic led to the cancellation of 2020. When the Toronto Blue Jays were allowed to return to the Dome at the end of July, I thought that would increase the chances that the C’s could return to Vancouver. After the word came down last month that the club would play out the rest of the schedule in Hillsboro, that was a punch in the gut. It was frustrating seeing everyone else get to watch live baseball except for Vancouver and the West Coast League teams in Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Edmonton. With the U.S./Canada land border closed and the hoops one would have to jump through to even fly south of the border just added to my frustration and made seeing the club on the road a losing proposition.
The 2022 schedule shows the Canadians visiting Spokane in 201 days time on Friday, April 8. If the land border restrictions are lifted, I sure hope to make my first-ever pilgrimage to Spokane for that opening series. The home opener at the Nat is 212 days from this writing on Tuesday, April 19 against the Eugene Emeralds. Let the countdown begin.