|Dinger Bobbled this year too!|
The next three against the Bells will be interesting from a few standpoints. Bellingham locked up the West Division title weeks ago, and sits 11.5 games ahead of second place Cowlitz. At 32-12, they also hold the best winning percentage and lead the entire league, giving them home-field throughout the playoffs. They are 2.5 games ahead of a surging Corvalis Knights team in the overall race. Still lots to play for at this point in the season, Bellingham won't be interested in slowing down and letting the Knights catch them.
Season to date, Bellingham holds a 5-1 record against Victoria, outscoring the HarbourCats 33-12. Victoria's only win so far was in their last meeting - a 5-3 victory at B'Ham on July 16th.
No starters have been announced, but if the current 5-man rotation stays intact, look for starts by Logan Lombana (2-3), Andrew Nelson (0-3), and Mikey Wright (4-4). Similarly for Bellingham, they are 8-2 in their last 10, and have used 8 different starters over that stretch. We should be lucky enough to miss staff aces Aaron Sandefur (1.84 ERA) and Eder Erives (2.09 ER) though. Look for outstanding lefty Zach Johnson to get a start, with his 1.94 ERA, and 32 strikeouts in 37 innings so far this year.
At the plate, the Bells are led, as they have been all season, by al-star outfielder Danny Miller. Miller is at the top in almost all offensive categories for the Bells, including leading in batting average (.333) and HR's (5). The Bells also have a Sean Watkin's-like pitcher/outfielder named Scott Heath who can hurt you on both sides - sporting a 1.80 ERA, while leading the team in RBI with 30.
The best news about Victoria's 1-2 road trip this week, was that Gabe Clark is still looking for his record-tying 9th home run this year. The friendly and supportive confines of RAP should encourage a couple of big flies this series. Gabe is actually tied at this point with Walla Walla's Andrew Mendenhall for the league lead at 8, after Mendenhall hit 3 this past week.
In other league-leading news, Hunter Mercado-Hood is falling back in the RBI race, currently sitting in third place with 39 behind Yakima's Vince Fernandez at 42. Nathan Lukes is really turning it on since returning from his hand injury and now sits third in the batting race at .356. Nobody is going to catch Kalmath's Steven Packard though, who has "slumped" down to .407 from the .458 he was hitting two weeks ago when he was here.
As a team, Victoria has continued to rise up the offensive stat list, currently sitting in second with an overall team batting average of .276 and 444 runs scored, trailing only Wenatchee at .288 and 460 runs scored. It's the pitching that is hurting Victoria, with a team ERA of 4.30 (compared to Bellingham's league-leading 2.74). In an oddly mismatched stat, Victoria pitchers lead the WCL with 5 shutouts on the season. The Bells only have 2.
With the Bells having used their top pitchers already this week, Victoria should be able to stay close with their starters. Given what we have seen lately, I suspect all games will be close. Cats should win one for sure, may get two - but the Bells are still looking for a first-place finish so won't be giving anything away.