On Monday night, the Edmonton Expos successfully exorcised any Wild Card demons they may have possessed after last year’s loss with a big 6-3 win over the Tofield Braves at Empire Park. The win comes a mere three days after the Expos and Braves tangled on Friday night it a heated affair that left tempers boiled over and benches clear.
The pitching matchup for the Wild Card Game saw right hander Gavin Turinek get the start for the Expos while right hander Corey Epp was given the ball by manager Dylan Berrecloth for the Braves. In a one game, winner take all, Wild Card Game, both pitchers were on short leashes. The two pitchers would however go on very different paths once the game began. Turinek would eventually earn the complete game win for the Expos throwing 134 pitches, striking out twelve, walking five and allowing only one earned run. Epp only survive one inning of work but not before surrendering five unearned runs and six in total in a bad inning that saw the Braves commit three errors with two outs. It was a bad inning that the Braves just could not overcome on this night.
Tofield would get to Turinek right out of the gate, as leadoff hitter Dylan Berrecloth would earn a walk to start the top of the first inning. With catcher Chad Nelson at the dish, Berrecloth would be caught trying to take second base on a great throw from Expos catcher Vaughn Rempel. Nelson would walk and shortstop Jason Sutherland would hit a single into right field to give the Braves their first runner in scoring position. With one out Dane McCarty would fly out to deep centre field for out number two and Turnik would get out of the jam by striking out Sean Melanson to end the inning. Fired up, the Expos would come up to the plate and cause all the damage they needed.
Expos shortstop Jonathan Down would set the tone of the inning for Edmonton with a double into left field that would take a home field hop sideways and past left fielder Dane McCarty. With one out, right fielder Jeff Morris would bring Down home from second on a soft RBI single to make it 1-0 Expos. With two outs, the Braves would see their defensive wheels fall off. Centre fielder Jordan Janke would get hit by a pitch before pitcher Gavin Turinek would earn a walk to load the bases. With Morris at third and walking back to the base after a pitch, the Braves would try to nab out number three on an unsuspecting Morris. There was however a little miscommunication and despite a diving attempt by third baseman Ray Lehman, the throw would find its way into left field allowing Morris to score to make it 2-0. Two errors later, runners at second and third and the score now 4-0 Expos, second baseman Jesse Janzen would hit a flare into right field and in front of Braves right fielder Josh McDonald to score runs five and six of the first inning. When the dust settled and as the clouds began to roll in from the west with heavy lightning, the game all of a sudden was 6-0 Edmonton.
Relief pitcher Barry Truss would hold the fort for the Braves for the remaining innings, pitching five innings of shutout baseball, striking out eight and allowing only six Expos runners to make it into scoring position for the rest of the night. While Truss was silencing the Expos bats, Turinek was continuing to dominate the Braves with a dazzling display of fastballs. The Braves would finally get on to the scoreboard in the top of the third inning when Chad Nelson would lead off the inning with single and with Sean Melanson on his heels, would come in to score on a two out error to the Expos. With the score now 6-2 Edmonton, Turinek would retire eight Braves in a row, six via the strikeout, until the top of the sixth inning when the Braves would score their third and final run of the night.
Veteran Ray Lehman would earn a four pitch walk against Turinek before moving over to third on an overrun by the Expos fielder on a Dylan Solberg single to right field. With runners now at second and third, centre fielder Dylan Berrecloth would hit a RBI infield single as the speedy player/manager would surprise the Expos defence, which was taking a little too long to make a play at first. Lehman would score to make it 6-3 before the Expos ended the inning on a fielders choice and the game on back to back strikeouts in the top of the seventh from Turinek for number eleven and twelve on the night.
It was a sloppy game by both teams defensively as they would combine for a total of seven errors and seven unearned runs. The pitching of Gavin Turinek was too much for the Braves hitters who despite getting pounded with fastball after fastball, couldn’t string together enough offence to chip away fast enough at the Expos lead. Edmonton first baseman Andrew Down was the only hitter in tonight’s game who would get more than one hit as he would pick up a double in the third inning and a single in the fifth. Jonathan Down, Gavin Turinek, Gary LeBlanc and Vaughn Rempel would all pick up singles for the Expos with Jeff Morris collection a RBI single and Jesse Janzen a two RBI single. For the Braves the offence was just as spread out across the lineup as the Expos, just not in as large of a quality. Dylan Berrecloth, Chad Nelson, Jason Sutherland and Dylan Solberg would each pick up a single on the night. Combined the teams had a total of twelve hits coming from eleven different hitters.
The win for the Expos sets up a best of three Semi-Final Series against the Holden Blue Jays. In 2018, it was the Jays who eliminated the Expos in the Wild Card Game with a 6-0 win in Holden. It was Kyle Muzechka who would dominate the Expos in last year’s Wild Card Game, holding the expansion team to only one hit in his complete game win. This year the Expos will need to potentially face Muzechka twice, once in game one and once in game three, if they hope to defeat the pennant winning Holden Jays. Game one of the series will go on Thursday July 18 in Vegreville, where the Blue Jays announced they will be playing all their playoff home games this season, Game two is scheduled for Monday July 22 in Edmonton with the series moving back to Vegreville on Thursday July 25 if necessary.
2019 PBL Playoff Picture
(1) Holden Blue Jays vs (4) Edmonton Expos
Game One – Thursday July 18 – Expos at Blue Jays in Vegreville
Game Two – Monday July 22 – Blue Jays at Expos
Game Three – Thursday July 25 – Expos at Blue Jays in Vegreville *If Necessary*
(2) Rosalind Athletics vs (3) Armena Royals
Game One – Thursday July 18 – Royals at Athletics
Game Two – Tuesday July 23 – Athletics at Royals
Game Three – Thursday July 25 – Royals at Athletics *If Necessary*