For the first six innings, Vancouver Canadians’ starter T.J. Franco, Jr. and reliever Kevin Bunch held the Ems to just one hit, a ringing double by left fielder Luke Cannon off the Kendall Autogroup sign in right field.
For those first six innings, Eugene looked like a team that had already counted itself out. They were making errors, throwing wild pitches and generally playing sloppy baseball. The Canadians were up 3-0 and coasting towards what looked like their second shutout in as many nights.
A pair of gutsy calls by manager Doug Dascenzo that put the breaks on another Vancouver rally also helped inject the spring back in his players’ steps.
After getting two quick outs in the bottom of the sixth, reliever Matt Buschmann issued a walk to leadoff man Larry Cobb. The first pitch to the next hitter was a pitchout. The runner wasn’t going. Normally, that would be the only pitchout in the sequence. But, on 2-1, Dascenzo called for a second. This time, Cobb was going and was gunned down easily by Luany Sanchez.
Buschmann said after the game that the second pitchout was facilitated by something Dascenzo saw in a pickoff attempt at first base.
“Obviously Dougie’d do it for a reason. The first one I think he thought he’d go first pitch. The second one, the pitch before we saw him flinch when we picked off, so we really had a good feeling about him going and it was a really good way to get me out of the inning without throwing anymore pitches,” Buschmann said.
After that, the momentum seemed to be in Eugene’s favor for the first time in nearly a week.
The Ems opened their half of the sixth with consecutive one-out singles by Chad Huffman, Sanchez and Cannon. That plated Eugene’s first run of the game and the first Eugene had scored since they plated two in the ninth inning of Friday’s game at Tri-City.
Eugene had finally broken through and wasn’t going to be satisfied with just the one run.
After an intentional walk to Willy Crafort loaded the bases, Abraham Aguilar hit one-hopper to third to score Sanchez and put Eugene within one. Ninth-place hitter Jesus Lopez followed with a single into the left-center field gap that brought home Cannon from third and Crafort from second with the tying and go-ahead runs.
The Ems held their first lead in 41 innings and were brimming with confidence stemming from the defensive stand to open the frame.
“Yeah, we obviously had some momentum. Obviously we came back and scored some runs and then we had some momentum going and it was good,” Buschmann said.
The lead proved to be fleeting when Vancouver catcher Don Sutton led off the eighth inning with a home run off of Ernesto Frieri just inside the right field foul pole to knot the score at four apiece with nobody out.
Frieri settled down and worked his way around a one-out hit-by-pitch to retire the side and avoid any further damage. The score would remain tied through the ninth and into the tenth when painful history repeated itself for Sanchez and the Emeralds.
After Sutton flew out to the wall in left, Alex Valdez doubled into the left-center field alleyway to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with less than two outs. An Andre Piper-Jordan groundout to the mound put Valdez at third and a passed ball by Sanchez brought him in and gave the Canadians a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Vancouver closer Scott Moore struck out two of the three Emerald hitters he faced in the bottom of the tenth to seal the Canadian victory.
Despite the offensive outburst, Dascenzo noted his team’s sloppy play on its way to its season-high fifth consecutive loss.
“It wasn’t a pretty game at all. We had the one inning where we got a couple of hits together and scored a few runs, but other than that we didn’t do anything offensively at all…Those passed balls, they shouldn’t be. If they’ve got a chance to catch the ball, they should catch the ball, that’s why they call it a catcher,” Dascenzo said.
In other Emeralds notes, Sunday’s starter Wade Leblanc and fellow pitcher Nate Culp were promoted from Eugene to single-A Fort Wayne after Sunday’s game. Drew Miller will join the team from Peoria.
On tap Monday for Eugene is the finale of the three-game set with Vancouver. Righthander Steve Faris, the Padres’ twelfth-round pick out of Clemson in this year’s draft, will make his first start with the club. Faris has no record and a 4.91 ERA in four appearances this year for the Emeralds. Vancouver will counter with fellow righty Chad Lee, a product of Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kansas. Lee is 1-0 on the year with an ERA just above four. Game time is 7:05 p.m.