Well that was quite the weekend down at RAP wasn’t it. We saw a bunch of things we haven’t seen this season, and I think we learned a few things in the process…
We saw our first home-team loss, we saw our first true come-from-behind victory, we saw our first walk-off. We also saw some spotty pitching and some desperate attempts to win games – one that fell short, but one that worked in the long run.
We also saw an opposing team better than any we had, and if nothing else they showed us that the rest of the season isn’t going to be an easy road and that nobody is going to just give us the WCL crown. Not that we seriously thought anyone would, but when you win that many games in a row, sometimes you forget that these teams are gunning for you. In the end though, Victoria took two of three from the Elks, and had it not been for some unfortunate situational timing in the bullpen, they could have easily swept.
Saturday’s game one started well thanks to a first inning 2-run shot by Joe Prior. That would be enough most nights with Will McAffer on the mound, but he struggled through a tough second inning that saw him walk in a run before getting a bases-loaded strike out to keep the lead intact. I was surprised his night ended there, but the inning had taken it’s toll and he left after throwing a whopping 56 pitches. Blake Hannah and Greg Casper stole the show from there – Hannah pitched 5 innings of 1-hit ball to get the win, while Greg Casper looked dominant again giving up only a single walk in the final two innings to earn the save.
Sunday the ‘Cats just ran out of pitching, simple as that. Relievers Casey Costello (School) and Ryan Steindorf (medical) are currently not with the team while they attend to matters (they will both return), and with rotations and workloads in mind, the bullpen was fairly light on arms. A lot of hope was resting on starting pitcher Jack Wolger to go deep into the game to preserve the pen, but that didn’t happen. Wolger struggled mightily and didn’t get out of the second inning, after giving up 5 runs in the first on two home runs, and two more in the second on a well-placed double. Kyle Mora came in fared not much better, giving up 5 more runs in another 4.1 innings. Colin Ashworth helped out in the final 3 innings, but gave up 3 more. Funny thing is, with any kind of pitching support at all, Victoria could have won this game as they put up 8 runs themselves. In fact with a couple clutch hits – the left 2 men on in the 4th, 6th, and 7th innings – they could have pulled it off regardless. As one would guess, the runs, hits, and home runs were the most given up by the team this year. Four home runs were given up Sunday, matching the team’s high in a single game.
Monday night looked like more of the same after Bend jumped out to a 4-1 lead on starter Cam Schneider. So what do you do when you need a win but have limited bullpen arms? You give a couple of All-Star starters some side work. Josh Mitchell got the nod to join the game in the 5th inning in the middle of a bases-loaded 2-out situation. Mitch was a bit rusty coming in on short notice and was less than impressed with himself after throwing a 4-pitch bases-loaded walk to bring in a 5th run. He rebounded to finish the inning and go one more scoreless. Keeping with the trend, Will McAffer got some light work tossing an inning of no-hit ball before giving the rock to Holden Lyons. Lyons was outstanding through 4 innings – his longest outing of the season – giving Bend reliever Sam Boone a chance to tire himself out before exiting the game. Boone couldn’t be touched in his 3 innings of work, and the change proved to be all Victoria needed as they loaded the bases before Cam Cannon finally brought in a run in the 11th – Dakota Dean, who had the biggest hit of the inning, starting it off with a sharp single to right-center. The key play of the game however occurred with one out in the top of the 10th with Bend runners on first and third and out, LF Jack Anderson lined out to Cameron Cannon on a hit and run that hung George Mendazona out to dry and he was doubled up at first to end the inning and preserve the tie.
The win was Victoria’s first walk-off win of the season, and the celebration released a couple games of pent-up emotions in front of the remaining fans. Overall, the HarbourCats hit .285 through the series, walking 13 times while striking out 17 times. Bend hit .291 on 34 hits and 16 walks, striking out 18 times.
With the home loss Sunday, that officially ends all the teams prolonged winning streaks, but one streak is still alive – it took 2B Griffin Andreychuk until the 7th inning, but a sharp single extended his consecutive on-base streak to 22 games.
A side note on Holden Lyons… From 1976 to 2012, there used to be a MLB award called the “Rolaids Relief Man” award, which tracked the performance of relievers and their contributions to their team’s win/loss record. Pitchers got 3 points for a win, 2 for a save, and -2 for a blown save. By that formula, Lyons has been piling up the points, and after Monday’s win, sits at 21 points on 5 saves and 3 relief wins. If it was a WCL award, he would be in second place, trailing only the Corvalis Knight Chase Kaplan at 23 points thanks to his 7 saves on the season. Holds is certainly putting out some fires in key situations this season.
So who’s hot right now? It has to be Jake Stone. Stone is hitting .421 on 8/19 in the last two series. Joe Prior has 5 walks and 5 RBI in his last 5 games, and Andreychuk has been on base 10 times in 27 trips to the plate. On the mound, team ERA has climbed a bit thanks to Bend’s 15-runs on Sunday, but six pitchers ERAs actually went down thanks to clean slates (Dondanville, Mitchell, Lyons, Casper, Henderson, and Hannah). Jarron Silva (3 for 18 in his last 6 games) and Brad Pluschkell (2 for 14 in his last 5 games), and Austin Guibor (1 for 8 in his last 4 games) are really struggling. Silva’s recent slump has knocked him down to 8th place in the batting race at .320.
Next up for the HarbourCats are the Gresham GreyWolves as they begin a 6-game road trip through Oregon. Gresham if you remember is the relocated Klamath Falls team, moved to a larger population center to help improve attendance numbers. It’s been a tough go to this point, with the team averaging 322 fans a game. The GreyWolves are riding a bit of a high to start the second half, sweeping Kelowna and taking 2 of 3 from Wenatchee to sit atop the South division at 5-1.
OF Riley Smith his 6 hits to go along with 5 walks, driving in 7 of Gresham’s 26 second half runs. OF Josh Adams went 9/23 last week after going 1/14 in limited duty before that. OF Jeff Mitchell still leads the team on offense, sitting at .327. On the mound, Gresham’s great week was made possible by three solid starts from Aaron Shoup (7 innings, 0 ER 5 hits), David Wallum (9 innings, 1 ER, 3 hits), and Andrew Heideman (9 innings, 2 ER, 10 hits).
As a team, Gresham enters the series with a team 3.48 ERA, and a team .240 batting average – sixth in league numbers in both categories. Victoria sits at a 2.95 ERA (4th in the WCL) and a .280 BA (1st in WCL).
Matchup wise, Victoria is rolling around to the top of its pitching order once again – but not before Skyler Henderson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) gets his first start of the season. A bit of a surprise starter, neither Henderson nor his moustache have pitched more than two innings in a game all season, and I’m guessing he’s hoping for more tonight. He will go up against the aforementioned Andrew Heideman (3-1, 3.03 ERA). Wednesday Austin Dondanville (4-0, 0.62 ERA) goes up against newcomer ace Rilyn Lewchuk (3-0, 0.75 ERA) in what could be the hardest fought game of the series. Thursday Will McAffer (4-1, 1.46 ERA) gets David Wallum (2-1, 1.67 ERA). No bad ERA’s on the mound this series…
After these three games, Victoria heads to Bend for an instant rematch against the Elks. More on that series later!