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2 Time Champs

Like the world famous Croydon Pirates who repeated as British Baseball’s National Champions in ’04 and ’05, the Vancouver Canadians doubled up in 2012.  Winning the Northwest League crown for a second consecutive year.  It has taken me awhile to post about it, because I’m only just coming down from a ten day beer bender in celebration.

I went to both playoff home games at the Nat but as I’d discarded my charts to watch strictly as a fan my memory may be somewhat hazy (again, the beers don’t help).  So, let’s just do a general re-hash of the highlights.  I may even mix in a few from the final two games in Boise as I listened to those whilst….drinking a few beers.

Game one of the West Division final has to rank as the best game I have seen at the Nat.  I’m a fan of pitcher’s duels and this one didn’t disappoint.  I had seen Everett’s starter Dylan Unsworth throw before and came away unimpressed as the C’s lit into him.  On this occasion, however, he was excellent, scattering four hits and striking out eight in just over six innings.  He kept Vancouver’s hitters off balance all afternoon.  His fastball isn’t particularly overpowering but his breaking pitches, including a pretty decent changeup make it seem a bit quicker than it is.

The star of the show, however, was Roberto Osuna.  Admittedly, I’m a bit biased as I’d been looking forward to seeing the Boss live for quite some time, but he didn’t disappoint.  He dominated the Everett hitters, striking out six over three innings without giving up a hit.  I wrote this in my previous post how he kept the Aquasox hitters guessing all afternoon, working his plus changup off his mid-90s fastball.  Fortunately for the C’s, and with a touch of foreshadowing, Osuna had another playoff start in him, and although we didn’t get to see it in person, I don’t think it’s difficult to say it was even better that this one.

And, in my first effort at being a crack journalist, I managed to corner Roberto after the conclusion of game one of the NWL final.

This Kid is Good

He was charting the game about 5 rows in front of us.  I was curious as to why he’d only gone three innings despite not allowing a hit.  I was nervous as was totally in the dark about his English capabilities, but he kindly explained to me that he had been held back his first two starts after visiting his sick mother in Mexico and would be ready to throw five innings Saturday in Boise, ‘no problem’.  As it turns out, he wasn’t wrong, on either account.  More on that later.

The West final was played on Labour Day afternoon under the baking sun.  The Nat was not quite full, but the atmosphere was electric (a two hour twenty minute game will do that) and when Kellen Sweeney singled through the right side to score Jorge Flores the fans rose in unison.  Knowing this was probably the only run we’d see on the day.

Game one of the NWL final couldn’t have been more different.  First of all it was a night game, so we weren’t able to bask in the Vancouver sun.  But, that’s really irrelevant.  As for the game, it was sloppy.  At that’s being kind.  The two teams combined for thirteen bases on balls, five errors, numerous other defensive miscues that really could have been scored errors, and a healthy dose of bad base-running.  By the time Boise scored two in the top of the sixth to lead 7-1, I think we’d already surpassed the two hours twenty it took to play the entire game one of the west division final.  The crowd was flat, the players were flat, hell, I’m willing to bet the normally excitable C’s broadcaster Rob Fai was flat.

Even with The Single Digit Assassin Jorge Flores plating two with a double in the bottom of the sixth, the C’s found themselves in a tough position against a very good Boise ‘pen.  But when Balbino Fuenmayor singled to lead off the seventh and Sir Art Charles immediately brought both of them home with a line shot over the center field wall, people started to wake up.  If Game one of the West final was the best pitched game I’ve ever seen at the Nat, the seventh inning that was too follow was the craziest twenty odd minutes of ball I’ve ever seen there.

Seeing eye singles, frozen ropes, errors, wild pitches, stolen bases, Boise infielders arguing amongst themselves.  We had it all.  When it was all said and done, the Canadians had plated five more runs to lead 10-7.  And that was basically that.  Wil Browning and Andrew Sikula worked the final two innings, only giving up a solitary single and the game was done.  Four and a half hours later the fans left Nat tired, but exhilarated.

But that was to be that.  I am not 100% certain how it works as far as home field advantage, but Vancouver only got game one of both the West and NWL final.  As this post is running on a bit, I won’t bore you with the details of games two and three in Boise.  They did follow a similar pattern to the two games I saw though, as game two was very well pitched and game three saw the C’s come from behind with another crazy seven run rally.  This time in the eighth, to once again win by three.

I do want to make one final point about the pitching performance of Roberto Osuna in game two.  Despite eventually losing the game, we should not overlook how dominant Osuna was in his five innings of work.  Even listening on the radio it wasn’t difficult to imagine how nasty his stuff was on the night.  Giving up only two hits, with nine strike outs, and zero walks is good enough.  But listening to it, it sounds like the Boise hitters were completely over-matched.  Marc Hulet, who has been writing about Jays prospects for ten years, was at the game and gives a short write up here.  To move him ahead of Syndergaard and Nicolino is definitely news.  Just a shame Canadians fans only got to see him a hand-full of times.

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