Baseball is a funny game isn’t it? What seems like a sure thing on paper on a Thursday, never seems to play out by Sunday night. That’s probably why people shy away from betting on baseball – you just never know what’s going to happen when the teams hit the field. An act of greatness, a missed call, a bobble in the field… The game can turn on a dime and leave you pondering what went wrong.
Kind of like my overly optimistic prediction of a series sweep. I should know better by now not to trust the stats. Sweeps are rare in the WCL, even more so for the HarbourCats. In 2013 they swept their inaugural series against Kelowna, but didn’t repeat that feat until last year’s Canada Day series against the Kitsap Blue Jackets – and they swept them twice in back to back series.
The optimism came from a seriously upgraded offence that was to take the field at RAP this weekend. That part of the equation proved correct, as the 19 different players who took at least one at bat this weekend combined to hit a respectable .273, with an on-base percentage of .359. Five players hit over .300, and ten batters had an OBP over .300. An Impressive team display of hitting to say the least, with some true individual standouts:
- Michael Gretler had an outstanding first weekend, going 5/11 at the plate with 3 walks and 3 RBI.
- Jake Pries also seems to be right at home in Victoria, going 3/7 with a couple walks and a .429 average and 2 RBI.
- PJ Floyd continued his offensive prowess – he started only two of the three games but went 4/7.
- Kevin Collard also going 3/7, although he was held without an RBI in a couple key situations.
- Alex DeGoti had a glorious weekend as well. With stories about his return everywhere you look, there was a lot of pressure put on this young man returning to town. With Gabe Clark signing with Toronto and not coming back, “Mr. HarbourCat” has become the centerpiece of attention. Not that it negatively impacted his performance – he hit .308 with a couple of key RBI on Sunday, all while playing solid defense at short.
With the kind of offence that puts up an average of seven runs a game, the expectation is that you will win more games than you lose. Where the sweep prediction fell down however, was with the expectation of solid pitching.
Friday’s starter Shaun Kennedy II was a pitch away from making it through four innings while surrendering only a single unearned run, but Cowlitz lead-off man Ryan Aguilar fought off some tough pitches before doubling in two runs, and later scoring on a hit by DH Slate Miller. Relief pitching wasn’t horrible the rest of the game, but Aguilar and Casey Henderson got to Josh Mitchell in the 10th inning to steal the victory for the Bears.
Saturday was a horror show right from the start. Starter Luke Manuel was having velocity issues, serving up 78-82mph batting practice fastballs that were being hit back faster than they came in. He lasted only 3 batters into the third inning and was charged with 5 runs on 6 hits and a walk. Reliever Sean O’Toole then took over and showed another example of what could have been… With 2 outs and runners on first and second, O’Toole threw what looked to everyone in the park like strike 3 to batter Mitch Bevacqua. The bench erupted in complaints, and coach Graig Merritt started down the path of getting tossed later in the game by making sure he was issued a warning before sitting down. Seemingly rattled by the bad call, O’Toole hit Bevacqua with the next pitch and then threw 8 straight balls to walk in two runs. Mikey Wright couldn’t stop the walking/bleeding either, and the Bears batted around to go up 10-3. After that inning, Wright settled down to pitch 3 solid innings – good news for a guy the ‘Cats hope will return to his 2014 level of dependability – but the game was too far gone to fight back.
After those two disappointing – and excessively long games (Friday was over 4 hrs, Saturday was 3:39) – Sunday’s Father’s Day game was the exact opposite. Starter Dominic “The Dominator” Topoozian did exactly that, scattering 6 hits and a single run over 7.1 innings. Reliever Josh Mitchell made up for Friday’s loss by getting the cats out of a jam in the 8th, and Matt Blais closed out the win thanks to a snazzy game-ending 5-4-3 double play started by Gretler. The well-attended Father’s Day game took all of 2:33 to play in the brilliant sunshine.
If nothing else, the weekend gave us a barometer on where the team is at this early point in the season. Likely there is now enough firepower in the lineup to slug out 6+ runs per game, which is probably be the magic number in the WCL this year – Victoria was near the bottom in 2013 with just over 4 runs per game and was middle of the pack at 5.5 last year.
The issue though is reliable pitching, where Victoria currently sits near the bottom of the league with a 4.81 combined ERA, and a 1.71 WHIP. It’s not all bad news – Alex Rogers and Dominic Topoozian give the ‘Cats two solid starters, and if coach Alec Adame can mold even a couple marginal arms from the rest, the offence should be able to steal a few games.
They might be 11-10 wins, but they all count the same come playoff time…