Vancan Outta The Blue


C’s Squeak Out Playoff Spot
September 4, 2011, 13:47
Filed under: Vancouver Canadians | Tags: , ,

By Josh Hall

Two weeks ago I walked out of Nat Bailey Stadium an optimistic fan, but realistically telling myself that the Canadians were most likely not going to make the playoffs. As great as I had seen them play up to that point, a 5 game pit to climb out of for the division and a 3 game lead for Everett in the 2nd half seemed insurmountable.

I go away for four days and bada-boom, bada-bing, Everett has hit a major road bump and Eugene has capitalized to take the West Division second half lead, leaving the C’s with a firm hold of 2nd place overall and not long to have to hold Everett off for that second playoff spot.

The stretch run the last few weeks has been hectic, but guess what; the Canadians are in the playoffs. They didn’t really help themselves out that much by losing 4 of 5 in a regular season ending series in Boise. Even on Saturday in the final game of the series, they lost 8-2 and had to rely on Eugene to beat Yakima or Everett to lose to secure that final playoff spot.

This will be the 2nd year in a row the C’s have made the playoffs. This time around it’ll be about improving on last year’s result in the West Finals against Everett, in which they lost.

On the other side of the coin, this is the first time the residents of Eugene, Portland will see NWL Playoffs since 2000. But that fact doesn’t really paint a picture of the success they have had the past 76 games. With the most wins in the NWL this season, the Emeralds recorded 46 victories to go with just 30 losses. On top of that, they dominated at home with 26 wins, were two games above .500 on the road and are going into the playoffs strong with a record of 7-3 in their last 10. Needless to say, the Em’s have the momentum going into the first round of the Scotiabank NWL Playoffs versus the C’s.

Alas, anything can happen in baseball, and sports in general, and as we have seen with how Everett plummeted in the standings late, all hope is not lost for Vancouver to come out on top against Eugene.

Who’s shown they’ve got what it takes to play big this season for the C’s. Well you can start with RHP Drew Permison who led the league in saves with 15. If the C’s can keep the games close, then Permison will become a key factor to whether or not the C’s advance. In contrast, the leading closers on the Emeralds, Chris Wilkes and Matthew Stites, both only have 5 saves. Staying on the mound, you can expect Blue Jays 1st Rounder Aaron Sanchez to get a start in the series. He went 0-1 in 3 starts but still looked impressive with his pitching.

Head to head, the C’s and Em’s match up fairly well. The two sides haven’t actually played each other since the first half but that doesn’t mean they don’t know each other. In 12 games, the C’s went 5-7. The surprising stat, considering the C’s overall road record of 14-24, is that 3 of their 5 wins against Eugene were at PK Park. Even more shocking, in those three victories, the Canadians out-scored Eugene 20-3. I don’t know all the nuances of baseball, but we here in Vancouver know that your head can mess you in playoff competition, so hopefully Eugene doesn’t forget those beatdowns from July.

Both teams had All-Star calibre players this season, which adds to the hype of this series. Potentially leading off the order for the Emeralds will be All-Star and Burlington, VA native, 2B Travis Whitmore who hit .297 this season in 62 games and 209 AB’s. Joining him on that same All-Star team is Canadians’ lead hitter and 2B Jon Berti who hit .291 in 213 AB’s this season. The previously mentioned Drew Permison also made the All-Star squad in addition to another C’s pitcher, Justin Nicolino. Nicolino went 5-1 in 9 starts with a miniscule 1.03 ERA.

All stats aside, the Emeralds have the clear advantage in the series, having won both the 1st and 2nd half in decisive fashion. Their record speaks for itself and the C’s will need to keep it tight. Letting a game get away from them early will spell disaster. Nonetheless, Vancouver has proven they can beat Eugene and they will try to do just that starting Monday at Nat Bailey Stadium. First pitch is at 1:05 PM and no doubt will be sold out come game time.

Bottom line for a C’s series win: Leave it ALL out on the field!

Original Post on VSP

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