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Vancouver Canadians Take Another Step

After going toe to toe through the first half of the Northwest League season it only seems fitting that it should be the Spokane Indians that stand in the way of Vancouver and a fourth straight trip to the playoffs.  Starting last night, the two teams are set to meet for three in Vancouver.  If the C’s make the playoffs that turns into four with a game at the Nat Tuesday before the teams will head to Spokane for games two on Wednesday and, if necessary, three on Thursday.

Both of these teams were excellent in the first half of the season, putting up 25 wins a piece (a C’s half-season record).  Neither have been quite as good in half two.  Still, despite some uneven play, the C’s are in a very good position, one up, owning the tie breaker, with three to play.

Saturday was a microcosm of the C’s second half.  Up and down.  But the Canadians came out on top at the end after a two out rally in the eighth.  Unfortunately Tri-City were also victorious so the post-game fireworks weren’t celebrating a pennant.  A win today gets that job done.

I mused recently on the C’s potential playoff rotation.  What I didn’t take into account was if a playoff spot was clinched early, how they might shuffle the deck.  Post last nights game I was able to catch up briefly with pitching coach Jeff Ware to get his take on how it would all shake down.

Matt Smoral gets the nod today with a chance to clinch the extra games.  If that does happen I was told Monday would be ‘TBA’ but when I suggested that they might skip Borucki to have him start Tuesday Ware agreed that might be their course of action.

Jairo Labourt got the ball Friday night and was his usual stingy self, giving up an unearned run in five innings pitched.  After four straight starts of two walks or less Labourt was a bit wild again with five walks.  Two of those came in the first after the entire staff were out on the mound checking out a fingernail issue.  Seriously, it took about 8 guys and 10 mins to clip his nail.  His velocity seemed to drop for those two hitters but once he got it going again he sat at 93, hitting 95 quite regularly.

His slider was a bit inconsistent on the night.  He threw some with a cutter like break while others were big and loopy, coming in around 80 miles per hour.  Talking to Ware, they’re still working with Jairo on getting a bigger break while maintaining a consistent arm speed.  Last night he didn’t have that.  He did rack up four of his five strike-outs with the slider but as Ware noted, as you move up through the levels, hitters will pick up on slower arm speeds.

I charted him again, but don’t want to make this post all about that so will just give the basics.

Running Pitch Count FBs Slider Change
Totals 86 53 29 4
Strikes 59 Min 90 80 82
Ballls 27 Max 96 87 85
Avg Velo 93 83 84

As you can see the change was a bit of an after thought.  Ware told me that Labourt was working hard on the pitch but just wasn’t overly confident with it yet.  So he’s basically a fastball/slider guy right now.  Saturday definitely wasn’t his best start, but, with only two pitches, if that’s not your best, then it’s still pretty good.

After Labourt came fellow former Lansing Lugnut Alberto Tirado.  This was the first time I truly got to watch the highly rated right-hander and I have to say I was impressed.  His line was a bit ugly with three runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk.  Looking past that, there were a ton of positives.  His arm speed is absolutely incredible and he uses the same slot for both his mid-90s two-seam fastball which has excellent arm side run and his mid 80s slider which is tight with late, sharp break.

His issue tonight, as per usual, was command.  Some was down to too much movement on his pitches.  One of his walks was four straight two-seamers to a lefty that had tons of run.  Other times he was pulling his pitches or just missing his spots.  If he can learn to hit those spots there is no doubt his stuff will play.  Until he can though, and with his max effort delivery, a bullpen role seems his long term calling.

MVP Watch:

As I wrote in my Is Franklin Barreto the NWL MVP piece, these three games could go a long way towards deciding the award winner as two very viable candidates in Vancouver’s Barreto and Spokane’s Luke Tendler are squaring off.

On Saturday Franklin had a single in three at bats with a walk and a run scored.  Adding to his league leading total in both hits and runs.

In response, Tendler also singled, walked and scored.  He struck out twice.

In my post I noted that if Barreto loses his lead in a couple of the counting stat categories it may dent his chances.  In that regards, Ryan McBroom‘s two run double could hurt.  Despite fact it won the C’s the game (and showed off Barreto’s plus speed as he scored easily from first even though the double was down the left field line) it moved McBroom into a tie for the league lead in doubles.

Notes from the Pressbox:

As I tweeted out before the game Saturday was my first opportunity to see recent callup Richard Urena.  Known more for his glove, on the night, the Dominican showed that his bat will play.  His first at bat was the most impressive as he got in the hole early, fouling off five tough pitches before getting a fastball he could handle, hammering it into the right-field corner for a triple.  His next two at bats weren’t too shabby either, hitting the ball hard on both occasions.   Unfortunately only one found a hole.  That’s five hits in his past three games.  The only blemish on the night was an error on a tricky-ish hop in the second that lead to the first Spokane run.

Saturday also saw the induction ceremonies for the newest members of the C’s Hall of Fame.  Both Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province and legendary Indians broadcaster Bob Robertson received their mountie hats as part of a pre-game ceremony.

Bob has always taken the time to have a chat with me whenever he’s in town.  A genuinely nice guy.  Steve just thinks he’s better than everyone (I’m joking, of course).

Special bonus video of Tirado, tough to see his arm speed as was taken on my phone but not too bad:

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