There are numbers that suggest the Vancouver Canadians are limping into the playoffs. Manager Brent Lavallee maintains his club still has plenty of fight left.
The C’s and the Everett AquaSox both wrapped up their regular seasons Sunday and will kick off a best-of-five championship set in the high-A Northwest League on Tuesday night at Funko Field in Everett. The series between the C’s, who are a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate, and the Seattle Mariners farmhands that make up the AquaSox shifts to Nat Bailey Stadium for Game 3 on Friday.
Vancouver punched their playoff ticket way back in June, thanks to winning the first half pennant (38-27). They nearly took the second half, too, as Vancouver (39-27) finished one game behind Everett (40-26).
In the midst of all that, Vancouver lost 12 of their final 18 games in the regular season, including Sunday’s 3-0 finale in Pasco, Wash., to the Tri-City Dust Devils. Lavallee says that his club has been making good contact at the plate and hits haven’t been falling. He points out, too, that his crew has had a bullseye on it with the rest of the six-team Northwest League for three months, thanks to winning the opening-half pennant.
Lavallee insists his team is ready. Tuesday will give us a better idea how right he is.
Everett were 13-5 to finish out the regular season.
“If anything, this team is resilient. We find ways to win when we have to. We’ve seen it all year,” said Lavallee, whose club had a league-best 12 walk-off victories this season.
“We’re healthy right now and we’re hungry. It feels like have something to prove. This is a dangerous group. There’s a special look in their eyes.”
Vancouver has been dealing with injuries and illness down the stretch, according to Lavallee. He didn’t offer up many details after that. Outfielders Dasan Brown (undisclosed) and Gabby Martinez (undisclosed) both went on the temporarily inactive list last Thursday and both were returned to the active roster on Sunday.
Lavallee admits that shortstop Alex De Jesus (upper body) won’t be playing against Everett. He was placed on the seven-day injured list on Sept. 3, but Lavallee says he’s been shut down for the season. De Jesus hit .248 with 11 home runs and 59 runs batted in for Vancouver in 82 games. He was second on the club in RBIs, trailing only infielder Cade Doughty, who drove in 68, to go with a team-best 18 homers and a .264 average in 102 games.
Vancouver also lost outfielder and lead-off man Devonte Brown to a promotion to the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Aug. 29 by the Blue Jays. Brown had 14 homers, 49 RBI and a .240 average in 89 games with Vancouver. He was second on the club in homers.
One of the bright spots down the stretch for the C’s has been left-hander Adam Macko, and Lavallee said Monday that he will be the starter for Game 1. Macko is the reigning Northwest League pitcher of the week, taking the honour on Monday for his five scoreless innings last Tuesday in a 7-3 win over Tri-City. Macko didn’t allow a hit, walked a pair, and struck out eight.
Macko, 22, was born in Slovakia but grew up largely in the Edmonton suburb of Stony Plain and is a product of the Vauxhall Baseball Academy near Lethbridge. He posted a season-low 3.63 earned run average in 22 and one-third August innings, and racked up 35 strikeouts compared to just 10 walks in that time. He’s 5-5 with a 4.81 earned run average in 20 starts on the season.
As it happens, Macko pitched for Everett last season. The 2019 seventh-round draft choice by the Mariners was part of a November trade that saw outfielder Teoscar Hernandez jump from the Blue Jays to the Mariners.
“He’s been electric over the last five weeks for us,” Lavallee proclaimed of Macko. “His execution is as good as it’s been all year, and his confidence is at an all-time high.”
The AquaSox are listing lefty Reid VanScoter, 24, as their Game 1 starter. He is a 2022 fifth-round pick of the Mariners and was 10-6 with a 3.27 ERA in 25 starts with Everett.
The C’s and AquaSox were 12-12 against each other this season. They haven’t played since a six-game set at the Nat on July 25-30.
Vancouver was swept in last year’s finals by the Eugene Emeralds.
NORTHWEST LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Vancouver Canadians vs. Everett AquaSox
(All Games on Sportsnet 650 radio network)
Tuesday, in Everett (7:05 p.m.)
Wednesday, in Everett (7:05 p.m.)
Friday, in Vancouver (7:05 p.m.)
*Saturday, in Vancouver (7:05 p.m.)
*Sunday, in Vancouver (1:05 p.m.)