Here it is, Dust Devils and Canadians face off for the whole shebang over the next few days.
I walked up to the press box and Rob Fai, Vancouver's play-by-play man, said there were 35 grateful Canadians players and coaches for the story I wrote in today's paper. I guess it fired them up pretty good with the headline "Devils have NWL title wrapped up".
Rob said they had it plastered all over the locker room, and they're definitely not lacking motivation to take Game 1 on the road. If they can do that, the Dust Devils would have their work cut out for them in Vancouver.
I can't say that I wrote the headline, but I did write the story, which was undoubtedly pro-Dust Devils. So I may not be the most popular man in the Dave Lemak Clubhouse tonight if Tri-City drops the opener.
First inning was a nightmare for the Dust Devils. Starting pitcher Ben Alsup strikes out leadoff man Jon Berti, but strike three got away from catcher Ryan Casteel, allowing Berti to reach first base on a dropped third strike.
The No. 2 hitter, Kevin Pillar, singled to left to put runners on first and second. The No. 3 hitter, Nick Baligod, hit a tailor-made double play ball to second baseman Tim Smalling. But Smalling, who was playing his first game back since missing two weeks with a hyperextended elbow, misplayed the hard grounder for an error, and everybody was safe.
With the bases loaded, cleanup man Kevin Patterson lined a double to the centerfield wall over the head of Brian Humphries, scoring Berti and Pillar. Then, Roan Salas drove in Baligod with a sacrifice fly to center, giving Vancouver a 3-0 lead.
The C's are definitely fired up, and they made the most of it in that first inning. It'll be interesting to see how Tri-City responds.
Funny moment between innings when Erik the Peanut Guy brought out Richard Pirkle for the "60 seconds with a Dust Devil" promotion. Erik always does a great job bringing out some personality and humor in the situation, but Pirkle came up with the line of the night by accident.
In the 'lightning round', one of the questions is 'Boxers or briefs?'
Pirkle responded, 'Both. It depends.'
Erik then asked, 'Did you say Depends?'
Huge laughs from the crowd.
Tri-City gets on the board in the bottom of the second, getting a two-out single from Taylor Featherston. He takes second on a wild pitch and scores on a single to right by Jaron Shepherd.
Vancouver adds one more on a solo home run by Pillar to lead off the top of the third to make it 4-1. Alsup had a two-strike count before Pillar fought back to make it 3-2. Pillar then fouled off a couple pitches before driving a high fastball between the grounds crew sheds in left.
I watched Alsup as Pillar rounded the bases, and he was obviously upset with himself, doubled over with his hands on his knees. He's thrown 42 pitches up to that last at bat, which is a lot for the first two innings.
Tri-City scraps back with two more in the third. Tyler Massey drew a two-out walk off Vancouver starter Ajay Meyer and then scored on a double to left center by Jared Simon to cut it to 4-2.
Leonardo Reyes then singled to center to score Simon, making it a one-run game.
Still a lot of baseball left, and I'm hoping the Dust Devils can win this one and get me off the hook.
Just when it seemed like things were turning Tri-City's way, Baligod hammered a 1-1 pitch from Alsup over the right field wall for a 5-3 lead.
Patterson followed with a bloop double down the right field line. He advanced to third on a sac fly by Matt Newman, although he nearly got caught at third with a laser throw from right fielder Simon. He came home on Balbino Fuenmayor's single to center to push the C's lead back up to 6-3.
Tri-City has been great at scoring runs when they need them all season. They need them now more than ever.
Dust Devils put runners in scoring position in the seventh, but can't get anything across.
Vancouver still leads 6-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth. And the Canadians should have Drew Permison — the best closer in the league — coming out of the bullpen soon, so Tri-City needs to get something going now.
Strangely enough, the C's don't even bring in Permison, but they don't really need him the way Aleson Escalante is going. Aside from a little trouble in the seventh — Tri-City had runners on the corners with two outs — he has been untouchable.
That's it. Escalante gets it done, and the Canadians win Game 1 6-3.
That is HUGE for Vancouver. Nobody (me mostly) was giving them a shot to win this, and now they have the upper hand with the next two at home.
However, Tri-City does have Christian Bergman, maybe the league's best pitcher, going tomorrow. If he gets even, I feel good about Tyler Gagnon in Game 3 with the title on the line.
Gotta win tomorrow, though. It won't be easy as the C's showed today.
Congrats to them on a terrific W.