Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wenatchee AppleSox - series preview

Wenatchee. That's where it all went sideways. The first time the HarbourCats met up with the AppleSox this season, down south of the border, the season was well in hand. Victoria was riding high after a profound first month of the season, going 11-6 on route to leading the North Division. Victoria strolled into the tree-fruit capital of Washington State with heads, winning percentages, and bats held high.

They were spanked. The Sox took all three games from the Cats by a combined score of 18-5. Scott Kuzminsky and Connor Russell had rough starts, and the Victoria bats fell suddenly silent.

Since then Victoria has gone 4-11 while Wenatchee has gone 9-5 to lead the North Division, 3.5 games ahead of the Cats.

Wenatchee comes to Victoria for the first time ever for a three-game swing at this, the official end of the first half of the season. The Sox will leave three players here for Tuesday's All Star game - 1B Connor Spencer, OF Brett Stephens, and SP Trevor Lubking will all suit up along side of the five HarbourCats selected. In perhaps the most interesting twist on the All Star game, AppleSox coach Ed Knaggs will also stay behind to coach the other side - the South Division All Stars.

Scheduled to go for Victoria are Connor Russell (1-2), Bryan Conant (3-1), and surprisingly, Ty Provencher (3-2). Given the pitch counts we have seen at RAP over the past several home stands, one would expect Ty-Pro's Sunday start will make him all but unavailable for work in Tuesday's All Star tilt.

Wenatchee has yet to announce starters for the series, but we are likely to see Beau Kerns (2-2, 3.05 ERA) on Friday, C.J. Burdick (2-1, 1.24 ERA) Saturday, and Davis Engle (4-1, 4.26 ERA) on the Matinee Sunday. Burdick has big-league stuff on the mound, striking out 24 in 21.1 innings this season, giving up only 1 extra-base hit.

At the dish, the Sox are led by All Star Connor Spencer, who leads the team in RBI while hitting a lofty .381. Leadoff man, SS Joe Mello leads the Sox batting .403 with 3 HR and 31 hits in 18 games this season, including going 4-5 in Tuesday's 22 run explosion in Kelowna.

Keys to the series? Pitching. Yes since the beginning of time it comes down to pitching, but it seems especially critical in this series. Wenatchee has been destroying starting pitching in their last 15 games, and are league leaders in hits and runs scored.

As good as they are, they are a station-to-station ball club that relies on timely hitting and base running. I would have said they won't beat you with the long ball, but with the way Victoria pitchers are serving them up... Cat's pitchers have given up an alarming 24 long balls this season, only 2 less than league-worst Walla Walla did the whole of last season. The Cats have now allowed the second-most home runs in league history, and this is only the midway point of the season.

Will the Cats be able to claw their way back into the North Division playoff race, or will they fall farther behind? I predict Wenatchee hitting will get the better of a shaky Victoria pitching, and will take 2 of 3 this weekend, leaving Victoria 4.5 games back. Still close enough to make a run, but steadily slipping further behind.

But while you're at the park, squinting from the evening sun that makes the right-field bleachers at RAP special, check out the new HarourCats hats on sale at the merch stand. The new "Third Jersey" style hat is sweet, and the kids will love the first ever Cat-Logo hat. An improvement over the originals for sure, the players will not wear these hats even when sporting the third jersey, these are fan-only merch items...

1 comment:

  1. Pitching is always key for sure Bubba and I'm hoping to see allot of ""off balance" stuff from our guys, also hoping for a 0 in the error column and some decent offense, time for the sticks to put some numbers on the board.