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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – September 11, 2011

September 12, 2011

Today, although still writing about the Blue Jays’ system, Section 203 is a New Yorker.

Vancouver Canadians – In their first year as a short season ball affiliate of the Blue Jays, the Vancouver Canadians have won the Northwest League Championship, walking away from the Tri-City Dust Devils, 9-2 in the decisive 3rd game of their series. Going into the bottom of the 4th, the Canadians were trailing 1-0, and had already made two outs, with runners on 1st and 2nd, when a C Pierce Rankin single was thrown away by the Dust Devils CF, allowing both runners to score and Rankin to reach 3B. He then scored on an infield single by SS Shane Opitz (3-4, 3B, RBI, SB, R), who had a strong final game, capping a very strong finish to his season. He may have more juice in his bat than he has shown this year, which was none. With RHP Jesse Hernandez (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K) putting together his best start of the season, if not his career, those three runs would be all that the Canadians would need. In fact, other than the rally in the Dust Devils’ 4th, with two singles and a double, they only managed a solitary walk in his five other innings pitched. Any time where your starting pitcher strikes out more than double the batters he allows to reach base, your team has a very good chance to win. Not satisfied with a 3-1 lead, the Canadians exploded for five more in the home half of the 7th. 2B Jonathon Berti, who hit only one home run in 60 regular season games, hit his 2nd of six playoff games to lead off the inning. Following his lead, the next four batters all reached base, culminating in a triple by DH Balbino Fuenmayor. After Fuenmayor was lifted for a pinch runner (Garrett Maines again), he, too, scored, on a sacrifice fly by LF Matt Newman. The two teams traded runs in the 8th before RHP Drew Permison came on to finish the game, as he has done so many time for the Canadians this season (24). The first batter he faced hit a single, and the next two struck out. Down to their last out, DH Jaron Shepherd hit a ground ball to the right of second base which was fielded cleanly by Berti, who flipped the ball to Opitz covering the bag. Game, set, match. The Vancouver Canadians, winning a championship for the first time in their 11 years in the NWL.

A summary of the Canadians’ season will follow later this week.

Lansing Lugnuts – After escaping the first round of the Midwest League by the slimmest of margins, the Lugnuts began the 2nd round in stronger fashion, beating the Fort Wayne TinCaps in Fort Wayne, by a score of 4-1. They will return to Lansing for game 2 (and 3, if necessary), looking to advance to the MWL finals. The Lugnuts opened the scoring in the top of the third, with a small ball sequence initiated by the #9 hitter, 3B Oliver Dominguez, who singled. A sacrifice and a walk, led to an odd play in which CF Jake Marisnick hit a routine groundball to 1B. The first baseman threw the ball towards 2B for the force, but missed the return feed. In the meantime, Dominguez rounded third and barreled home. Marisnick dallying off the base long enough to create a run down. He was caught, but not before the run scored. The Lugnuts added two more, in straightforward fashion in the 4th, with the first of two doubles hit by DH Michael Crouse on the night, and a triple by LF Marcus Knecht, scoring him. Two batters later, 2B Matthew Nuzzo (2-3, RBI, SF, K, R), in another strong game, scored him on a sacrifice fly. A strong start by LHP Egan Smith (5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) ensured those three runs would hold up with his usual command of the strike zone – he averaged one walk per five innings pitched throughout the regular season as well. A trio of RHP relievers, Dustin Antolin, Shawn Griffith and Danny Barnes finished the game, allowing only one unearned run. helped along by a bad throw from Dominguez (his second of the game) in the bottom of the 7th. The series continued Monday night.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – The Fisher Cats win the pennant! The Fisher Cat win the Pennant! With Game four of the best-of-five tied at 2-2 going into the 9th inning, 1B Mike McDade (3-4, 2B, RBI) capped off a strong game by doubling past the center fielder. Pinch runner John Tolisano moved to 3B on a ground ball, setting up LF Danny Perales for his brush with heroics. The left-handed hitter pulled a ball deep in the air to right field and over the fence, giving the Fisher Cats a late two-run lead. RHP Bobby Korecky came on to close and never let a ball leave the infield, propelling the Fisher Cats into the Eastern League finals, where they will face off against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, of the San Francisco Giants organization for the right to call themselves EL champions. A good word should be thrown in the direction of unheralded RHP Yohan Pino (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR), acquired on the sly from the Cleveland Indians organization earlier this season, to provide the Jays with AA innings. After working as a swingman for most of the season, Pino moved into the rotation in mid-August, consistently working deep, averaging nearly 7 innings per start. most of the quality variety. The EL finals are scheduled to begin on Tuesday night.

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