Vancan Outta The Blue

C’s: An Entertaining Championship Squad
September 11, 2011, 13:55
Filed under: Vancouver Canadians | Tags: , , , ,

By Josh Hall

Call me a homer or call me a bandwagoner. Having never been to a Vancouver Canadians baseball game before this season, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A championship helps, but even if the C’s had lost today, I can sum up action at the Nat in one word: Entertaining.

Today, the Canadians faced off in a winner take all game three in the Northwest League Final. Today, the Canadians won their first ever NWL title in 12 seasons as a franchise. It was powered by a 2nd strong post-season performance from Jesse Hernandez who threw 9 K’s, a career high, in 6 innings pitched. Hernandez was signed by the Blue Jays as a free agent in June 2010.

If you’ve followed the C’s all season long, you can attest to the story of two completely different halves. Tying for top spot in the first half, they took 2nddue to an inferior head to head record (5-7) against Eugene. Hoping to take the 2nd playoff spot by winning the 2nd half, they promptly failed at doing so, finishing dead last and yet squeaking into the playoffs as Eugene managed to win the 2nd half as well. Vancouver took said spot by virtue of having the 2nd best overall record. The team used the newspaper headlines saying they, “…backed in,” as bulletin board material.

It sure worked.

Up until today’s Game 3 season ending matchup, the road team had won in all of the C’s playoff games. It was Eugene in fact, who was up 1-0 in the opening series after taking Game 1 in Vancouver. It was all but over on paper, as Eugene not only took both halves in the West Division but the best overall record of all 8 teams in the NWL. Well the C’s gave the Em’s a swift kick in the rump the next night by winning 10-3 in Eugene, and then won a deciding game three after giving up a 5-0 lead only to win 5-4.

Off to the finals they went, taking game one in Pasco, Washington, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils. The Devils had the 2nd best overall record during the regular season. These C’s were for real and weren’t taking “on paper” statistics as legitimate reasons for why they should lose. Alas, it wasn’t going to end easily and TC took game two at The Nat by a score of 5-3.

It should be noted that due to NWL rules, despite Tri-City having a superior regular season record, Vancouver was privy to 2/3 finals games at home.

Finally, as mentioned, the Canadians did take today’s Championship match and handily, topping the Dust-Devils by a score of 9-2.

If there’s one thing I want people take away from this story and this year’s results for the Vancouver Canadians, it’s that baseball does work in Canada and Vancouver, more specifically. Not only have we see a star rising in Brett Lawrie from Langley become a starting 3B for the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Canadians this season became an affiliate of Canada’s only MLB team, said Toronto Blue Jays. It’s even been rumoured the C’s could be promoted to Triple-A ball next season from their current Single-A Short Season status.

The Canucks, Lions and it seems the Whitecaps will always garner more fans due to being in Major Leagues and having larger stadiums, but it cannot be denied the Canadians put out an entertainment value that is basically second to none.

The players come from all over the world to play in our city, so next season, when the 2012 Canadians take the field, go out to the Nat and welcome them with open arms for they really are the Best in the West.

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Championship Cometh
September 8, 2011, 13:51
Filed under: Vancouver Canadians | Tags: , , ,

By Josh Hall

Just when you thought the boys from Vancity were down and out of the Northwest League West Division Final, they stunned, and they shocked. Vancouver who had an overall road record of 14-24 this regular season, lost game 1 at the Nat and surely, on the brink of elimination headed to Eugene, were finished.

What happened was nothing short of a major upset. Vancouver did in fact close out the series last night with a tight 5-4 victory but the story is more about how they got to that point. It begins with game two.

Travelling to Eugene for the first time since mid-July, the C’s knew what they needed to do and knew it was a big job. The Emeralds won both halves of the season in the West Division handily. Back when these two teams played though, Vancouver took 3 of the 6 games played in Eugene and limited the Em’s to 3 runs in those three games compared to their 20. The sides hardly knew each other going into this series and yet it was assumed that Eugene had the upper hand, which they did going in. They proved that in Game 1, blowing out Vancouver 8-3.

Game 2 got underway in Eugene and it was clear the C’s weren’t going down without a fight. Leading by a score of 2-1 going into the 6th, the C’s scored, count ‘em, EIGHT runs in the inning. The final score was 10-3 and a message was sent. The story was the same as the regular season. Now in four wins the Canadians had managed at PK Park, the Em’s had been outrun 30-6.

Twenty-four hours later, the atmosphere was tense; the stadium was full and the crowd in Eugene ready to celebrate a game three victory and a trip to the NWL final. Surely, it was their day. That feeling didn’t last long as the Em’s found themselves down 5-0 after three innings. But Eugene didn’t win both halves for nothing. They fought back and come the bottom of the 9th, it was 5-3 Vancouver. Justin Miller scores for the Emeralds and it’s suddenly 5-4, an intentional walk and the bases are loaded with 1 out. The crowd was volatile and so were the players. On a delayed strikeout call on Travis Whitmore, he became irate with the umpire. Eventually cooler heads prevailed but now the C’s were only 1 out away from a trip to the Final.

It was pure beauty, the simplest of baseball plays, a grounder to shortstop and the throw to first. That was it. Series over and an upset of fairly epic proportions. The comeback of the season.

The C’s did what they needed to do, keep it tight and stay ahead.

Bring on those Dust-Devils Friday in Pasco, Washington.

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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!

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A Day Off & On To The Playoffs…Hopefully
August 29, 2011, 13:44
Filed under: Vancouver Canadians | Tags: , ,

By Josh Hall

A day off today means the Vancouver Canadians can rest easy on a 12 hour bus trip to Boise, Idaho. That is where they close out the regular season with five games against the Hawks, whom they are 4-1 against so far this season.

The C’s are coming off a big loss yesterday, which should have been a win. Leading the Tri-City Dust-Devils going into the 7th, the game seemed to be locked up. Up until yesterday, the Devils were 0-28 when trailing after six innings. Vancouver up 4-3, Drew Permison comes in for the save in the top of the 8th, and on one pitch and one swing it was 4-4 and then it was 5-4 Tri-City. Permison, who has been stellar this season to say the least, and leads the NWL in saves, blew only his second save of the entire season. It was not his day.

Nonetheless, the Canadians playoff hopes were boosted when Eugene defeated Spokane 1-0. Here’s a breakdown of the C’s playoff chances:

Yesterday the C’s lost which officially eliminates them from winning the 2ndhalf, now 6 games back with 5 games remaining. The Eugene Emeralds won the first half, and since Vancouver is eliminated in the 2nd half, that means they need Eugene to win the 2nd half as well.

When the same team wins both halves, the 2nd team to make the playoffs is the team with the next best overall record. With five games to go for each team, Vancouver sits 3 games up on Everett and 5 up on Salem-Keizer in the overall standings.

The key for the C’s in securing that 2nd place overall spot is to just keep winning. Five games to go against a team they owned in the first half, the task is tall, but not gigantic.

We could have some playoff baseball at the Nat next week folks!

Original Post on VSP

C’s Game Of The Season
August 21, 2011, 13:38
Filed under: Vancouver Canadians | Tags: , ,

By Josh Hall

Simply put, last night’s Northwest League game between the Vancouver Canadians and Everett Aquasox was the game of the season. The fact it was fireworks night turned out to be an incredible complimentary bonus.

It was something out of a storybook. Included were a storybook beginning, a storybook dilemma and a storybook ending. No sporting event that I have been to live has ever been as exciting, even a Canucks game.

Before the C’s even had an opportunity to swing a bat, it was 3-0 Everett. The game was over and there was no hope of coming back. Those three runs were scored on four hits allowed by RHP Zack Breault.

Alas, the Canadians finally secured three outs, stepped up to the plate, and 1B Kevin Patterson slugged the first of three homers on the night for the C’s. That cut the lead to 3-2.

Breault stayed in, it was 4-3 after two innings and it was clear to everyone in the sold out crowd that this game was going to be a long one. Ultimately, it lasted just under 4 hours.

The C’s never led and it was the bottom of the 9th when that fact looked like it may stay that way. Down 9-6, a smattering of great play which involved singles, bunts and eventually runs, saw the Canadians go through the whole order. This also included some clutch pinch running from 1B Yeico Aponte who came in for the worn out Kevin Patterson. With two outs and runners in scoring position, it looked like the hometown boys may be able to pull off the comeback in the B9, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Aquasox pitcher Krakowiak locked down the final out of regulation.

For the second time this week, the C’s were headed for extras and the crowd was abuzz. The stage was set for an amazing comeback to be completed, that storybook ending to take place.

Top of the 10th, the Aquasox hardly threatened on some great relief pitching from RHP Philip Brua. Bottom of 10, on the power of a couple walks and singles, the bases were juiced. Cinderella was ready for the ball. All due respect, last night’s Cinderella was Nick Baligod, who up until his final at bat, was 0-3. The summer air filled Nat Bailey, the pitch came down and Baligod crushed the offering over the right field wall like it was pack of rotten eggs. Ecstasy is one way to put it. The walk-off Grand Slam meant a 13-9 victory and the highest run total of the season for the C’s.

It also meant the C’s moved to within 7 games of the 2nd half lead, which they are more pulling for Eugene to win, only 3 games back.

Twas a storybook ending…and cue the fireworks!

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