The Vancouver Canadians got the job done with their ninth-inning rally this time around as they walked off the Spokane Indians 2-1 at Nat Bailey Stadium Thursday night.
Both teams traded zeroes on the linescore until the top of the eighth when Spokane went to work on C’s reliever Jol Concepcion. Bladimir Restituyo was hit on the hand but was able to stay in the game and take his base. Ben Sems would walk on four pitches to put Restituyo in scoring position. Nic Kent popped up to Concepcion in front of the mound and looked to double off one of the runners but they both scrambled back without a throw. Concepcion then retired Braiden Ward on a lazy fly ball to left but Zac Veen sent a single up the middle that went off the glove of shortstop Trevor Schwecke as he was going to his left past the second base bag to score Restituyo with the game’s first run.
Vancouver finally broke through in the ninth against Spokane reliever Anderson Bido. Leadoff man Steward Berroa began the frame with a walk and moved up to second and third on a pair of wild pitches. Addison Barger would bring home Berroa by banging a double off the right field wall to tie the game at 1-1.
Barger got to third on yet another wayward offering from Bido. Schwecke would strike out before Bido looked to have a second out off the bat of Zach Britton who popped one up in the infield. Instead, the Spokane infielders could not decide who would take charge and catch the ball. Bido made a late stab for the the ball and wound up dropping it. Britton was credited with a single while Barger remained at third. Britton was replaced by pinch-runner Hugo Cardona who went to second on defensive indifference to take away the force play for Spokane. The rain began to fall as P.K. Morris stepped up to the plate. He fell behind in the count at 0-1 after a check-swing strike but then hit a deep-enough fly ball to center to drive in Barger with the winning run.
Yosver Zulueta managed to battle his way out of a couple of sticky situations. He walked Veen with one out in the first inning and saw Veen advance 180 feet as a throw from C’s catcher Anthony Morales went off the glove of Schwecke at short and skipped into center field. That allowed Veen to get to third base after stealing second. Zulueta struck out Drew Romo and Grant Lavigne to leave Veen 90 feet away.
Zulueta had another problem to deal with in the second inning. A Schwecke throwing error from short saw Julio Carreras get to second base. Carreras got to third on a Martin grounder to second but he was thrown out at the plate when Restituyo grounded out to first with a drawn-in infield. Morris made the throw to the plate for Morales and he chased a retreating Carreras and tagged him out up the third base line. Morales then fired the ball to second as Davis Schneider covering the bag and nearly doubled up Restituyo but the Spokane center fielder managed to scramble back safely. Zulueta would induce a broken-bat bouncer back to the mound from Ben Sems and completed the 1-3 putout to get out of the inning.
Spokane’s first and only hit against Zulueta came with one out in the fifth when Restituyo dunked a single into center, ending a string of 10 consecutive men retired. Zulueta would strike out Sems looking and Morales threw out Restituyo trying to steal second for a strike ’em out/throw ’em out double play to end the fifth.
Thomas Ruwe took over for Zulueta and walked Kent to begin the sixth after a full count. Kent would steal second base when Ward struck out looking to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Ruwe fell behind Veen at 3-1 but retired the Colorado Rockies 2020 first-round pick on a fly ball to Berroa at center just short of the warning track. Curiously, Kent did not tag up to go to third. Perhaps he saw into the future that Ruwe would strike out Romo swinging on three pitches to end the frame.
Ruwe had a 1-2-3 seventh by striking out Lavigne and getting Carreras on a weak chopper up the first base line that Morales pounced on from behind the plate to start the 2-3 putout. The inning ended on a Martin fly ball to right.
Concepcion stranded runners at the corners in the eighth by getting Romo to pop up to short before a clean ninth that began with a Lavigne strikeout looking and ended with a Martin strikeout swinging.
Zulueta allowed just one hit and one walk while ringing up five batters over five shutout innings. He recorded seven of his 10 outs in play on the ground.
Ruwe issued just one walk over two scoreless frames and struck out three. The win went to Concepcion who gave up a run on a hit, a walk and a hit by pitch but struck out two over his two innings to improve his record to 3-3.
The C’s had a chance to get on the board early against Spokane starter Evan Shawver. A base hit by the switch-hitting Berroa to the opposite field in right began the first inning but he was erased on Barger’s 4-6 fielder’s choice. Barger almost get erased himself as he took off for second on a pitch that bounced in the dirt but Romo pounced on the ball and threw the ball to second, forcing Barger to put on the brakes. An off-target throw by the shortstop Carreras allowed Barger to get back safely on a headfirst dive. Zach Britton drew a two-out walk and moved up 90 feet with Barger but Morris struck out swinging.
Shawver retired the side in order in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings with the only significant contact coming from Schwecke who drove one to deep center but it was run down by Restituyo to begin the fourth.
Berroa ended a string of 14 consecutive batters set down by Shawver with a one-out walk in the sixth and got into scoring position by stealing secon base without a throw. Barger flied out to right and Schwecke grounded out to short to leave Berroa at second.
Luke Taggart replaced Shawver on the mound for Spokane in the eighth and he was tagged for a base hit up the middle by Britton. That was wiped away on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Morris and that was all Vancouver could muster. The C’s would fare no better against Taggart in the eighth as he had a quick 1-2-3 frame.
Britton had two hits and a walk in his return to the lineup after missing the entire series in Hillsboro last week. Berroa was the on-base leader with a hit and two walks while swiping his 10th base of 2022. Barger had the other base hit. Morris’ sacrifice fly was the second time he had a walk-off and was the answer to Thursday night’s trivia question about who produced the C’s first walk-off win so someone in the team’s front office was being clairvoyant.
Thursday was Lou Gehrig Day across Major League and Minor League Baseball, paying tribute to Gehrig’s 17 year-old career and raising awareness about ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Known as The Iron Horse, Gehrig had set the record for consecutive games played with 2,130 and was a member of six World Series winners as the first baseman for the New York Yankees. Gehrig passed away on June 2, 1941 at the age of 37.
Canadians play-by-play man Tyler Zickel revealed during Thursday night’s game that Tony Dallas, father of C’s pitcher Chad Dallas, is suffering from ALS and dedicated the broadcast in his honour. Best wishes to Tony and his wife Nancy, Chad and his sister Leigh Anne and brother Jack and the entire Dallas family. There is still no cure for the neurological disease that affects voluntary muscle movement. To learn more or to make a donation, visit MLB.com/4ALS.
Infielder/outfielder Hugo Cardona is back with the club from Dunedin. He drew seven walks in nine games with the D-Jays and will wear number 29 once again.
Weather permitting, the series continues Friday afternoon as lefthander Ricky Tiedemann is scheduled to fire the first pitch at 1:05 p.m for Monty’s Mounties. Spokane will counter with Will Etheridge.
Friday’s game has been rained out so the Canadians and the Tribe will play a doubleheader Saturday. Ricky Tiedemann and Hunter Gregory are slated to start for Monty’s Mounties with Tiedemann firing the first pitch at 5:05 p.m. Will Etheridge and Joe Rock counter for Spokane. The games are available on CanadiansBaseball.com and MiLB.TV with Tyler Zickel handling the play-by-play. Fireworks aficionados will be pleased to know that the Fireworks Extravaganza is still on.
Radar Gun Rundown
Zulueta hit 101 miles per hour on the radar gun and had strikeouts at 99, 99 and 99 before “slowing down” at 93 and 94 for his five strikeouts. His offerings ranged from 79-82, 85-87 and 96-99. Ruwe had strikeouts at 93, 94 and 95 and touched 96. He was also at 81-83. Concepcion registered K’s at 95 and 94 and was at 82.