Vancouver Notebook: Slumping C's Still Lead NWL

You know you're in a solid position in baseball when you can lose five straight and still lead the league by 3 games – with only 40 played in the season so far. But that's the position the short-season rookie ball Vancouver Canadians found themselves in this week as the pitching crashed, the hitting struggled, the errors piled up… yet they're still the team to beat in the Northwest League.

July 25, Vancouver 6, Salem Kaizer 8

A lengthy bus trip to Oregon started the week for the C's, and the Salem-Kaizer Volcanoes turned out to be a more than competitive opponent for the league leaders. The first game of the road trip saw the Canadians leading 6-4 in the bottom of the 7th. The C's had multi-hit games from Ty Bubalo and Jeff Bieker setting the scene for a close one, before recently double-demoted (then promoted) former Stockton pitcher Danielin Acevedo was brought in to relieve.

The 6'3" Dominican had been shelled in Stockton High-A ball (1-3, 8.00), then shelled again in Arizona rookie ball (0-0, 6.00), and his new surrounds in the short-season stuff didn't look like they were about to break with tradition as he was touched up for 4 earned runs in an inning. The Canadians hitters couldn't make up the difference, and Salem-Kaizer would take the game in a trot.

July 26, Vancouver 3, Salem-Kaizer 7

The return bout didn't do much for Vancouver's confidence as an opening flurry from the Volcanoes against 4th rounder Jimmy Shull's pitching saw them up 7-1 by the sixth inning. Shull gave up 10 hits in 5.2 innings, with five runs earned, in one of his shakiest starts of the season. That said, when you can get rocked for five in 5 and still come out of it with a 2.84 ERA, life could be a lot worse. With the bat, 2005 first round consolation pick Travis Buck went 1-2 with 3 walks and a 2-run home run, bringing his BA to .370, while Chalon Tietje pulled off a gutsy 2-4 with a walk and a run scored in the lead-off spot. Jeff Baisley's 2-5 effort continued his RBI rampage, which sees him #4 in the league for runs batted in. A woeful game, but plenty to be happy with… if you look hard enough.

July 27, Vancouver 2, Boise 3

When things are going wrong, they have a tendency to just keep on going wrong, and this game was one of those outings where the good guys just couldn't get their act together enough to grab the win. Every batter in the line-up (bar Justin Sellers) managed a base hit on the night, with second baseman Wilber Perez managing two and catcher Shawn Callahan hitting a long bomb in the 9th to keep the Canadians in touch. On the mound, Joe Newby (2-4, 5.73) gave up 3 runs in the 2nd inning, but then knuckled down to keep the Hawks scoreless for the following five innings.

With the C's down by one, Perez made it to first on a dropped strike three, then stole second with two outs and the free-swinging Mike Massaro (.321) at the plate. It was a nail-biter – a base hit would tie the ballgame, but then, incredibly, Perez broke for third. Boise catcher Mark Reed threw him down for the final out, and the game was over on a decision that left many scratching their heads… why steal third when a base hit scores you from second anyway?

July 28, Vancouver 3, Boise 4

Here we go again – 12th rounder Jeff Baisley popped a huge homerun and a healthy double to produce strongly from the #4 spot, and Haas Pratt behind him went 2-3. However, the 6-7 spot has been a struggle for the Canadians this season, with platooning catchers Shawn Callahan (.171), Ty Bubalo (.210) and Anthony Recker (.220) all struggling to find their timing in limited action. With the #3 (Sellers), #5 (Baisley), #6 (Pratt) and #8 slots managing hits and the rest remaining silent, it's probably unsurprising that the C's only scored three times. What was a lot more surprising was that 9th rounder Trey Shields (2-1, 3.00) got lit up for 11 hits in 5 innings, with 3 runs earned and 4 scored. This losing streak just has to end!

July 29, Vancouver 5, Boise 3

In a truly bizarre game, Vancouver obviously needed someone to step up and do the unexpected, but nobody in their right mind would have expected the 8, 9 and 1 slots to combine for 6 of the 8 total hits the team managed on the night. One hundred and fifty-five pound lead-off man Mike Massaro went 2-5 with an RBI, newly promoted speed demon Zeke Parraz went 2-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and 2 runs scored in the #8 slot. Struggling 5'9" second baseman Isaac Omura (.172) positively blossomed in the bottom of the line-up, going yard with an unexpected home run, and going 2-3 with the bat, while drawing a walk and scoring once to help the Canadians win a game that everyone seemed to be trying to lose. On the mound, non-draft free agent Joe Piekarz (2-1, 5.01) pitched a beauty, allowing only two hits in six innings to keep the game tight to the end.

July 30, Vancouver 9, Boise 2

You knew it would happen – a slump this bad just had to end with a run explosion, and as the Canadians utilized a strong cross breeze to wreak havoc on the Boise Hawks pitching staff. They seemed to suddenly have the confidence to score at will, and that's why they did, crossing the plate in six different innings to destroy Boise in a cakewalk.

Mike ‘Michiro' Massaro led by example in the lead-off spot, going 4-5 with a double, a homerun (!), an RBI, a walk and three runs scored, stopping just a triple short of completing the cycle.

Steve Kleen and Shawn Callahan went 2-5 and 2-4 respectively, and Justin Sellers capped off the order with a 2-5 performance with 2 runs scored. But once again it was little Isaac Omura demonstrating his heart, going 1-3 with a double, a run scored and two walks. On the mound, Mike Madsen (3-0, 1.38) dominated, giving up a single run over six innings, while Danielin Acevedo continued to leak runs with a first-ball homerun in his one inning of relief.

July 31, Vancouver 7, Boise 8 (10)

Jimmy Shull ended the week the way he had begun it, giving up five earned runs in five innings of work, but he wasn't alone, with the normally reliable Jason Ray (0-0, 3.52) and Stephen Bryant (1-1, 1.29) also surrendering runs to a Boise team that just wouldn't quit. Ron ‘Mayday' Madej threw two spectacular innings of middle relief in which he struck out four of seven batters faced, and with the bat, Travis Buck went 2-5 while Jeff Bieker went 1-3 with a 2-run homer. However, all in all, this was a road trip that the C's will be happy to have ended – especially with a three-game lead in the NWL.

WHO'S HOT:

Travis Buck (.361) Just promoted to Kane County, ‘Wonder' Buck was a step above every player he faced while in Vancouver.

Mike Massaro (.338) After a slow start to the season in limited action, he's just exploding, and his .432 OBP is nice for a lead-off man.

Zeke Parraz (.300) Got used to life in short-season ball right off the bat after his promotion from Arizona, and just getting better.

Ty Bubalo (.194) He might not look too hot with that BA, but his power has been noticeable and put to good use in the last week.

Brad Davis (3-1, 0.00) Dangerous Bradley Davis is just lights out, and has been all season. A 1:5 walk to strikeout ratio doesn't hurt.

Brad Kilby (1-0, 1.15, 8 saves) The Killer surrendered a run this past week, which is most unusual, but he's still the filthiest closer in the league.

Mike Madsen (3-0, 1.38) Mr. Blonde is just all kinds of solid, and one of the most consistent starters in the rotation.

Ron Madej (0-0, 1.23) Mayday was unheralded and one of the quieter performers for most of the season, but his mid-innings dominance is now being noticed.

WHO'S NOT:

Chad Boyd (.253) Hasn't registered a hit since July 21, and has seen his average drop from .300+ to just .253 as a result.

Danielin Acevedo (1-1, 11.25) Just been clobbered whenever he's thrown so far, and you have to wonder whether there's an injury issue for him to have gotten this bad, this quickly.

Injury Report

Wes Long (.346) Yes, that's a monumentally nice batting average, but Wes hit a foul tip against his eye two weeks back and has undergone surgery to repair his orbital socket over the last few days. The procedure is fairly safe, but our thoughts and hopes will be with Wes as he goes through the rehab process.

Chris Parry is a Canadian-based writer and journalist for Unreel Media, who covers the Northwest League for Oakland Clubhouse. He can be heard on CJSF 90.1FM Vancouver every Sunday morning from 11am-1pm… as long as the Canadians aren't playing at home. He is also the author of a blog about the Vancouver Canadians called "Notes From the Nat".

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