On August 8th, the Vancouver Canadians wrapped up a six game “home” series against the Hillsboro Hops at Ron Tonkin Field (their home park). C’s first baseman Spencer Horwitz went 0-for-4, his third hitless game of a series he finished 2-for-19 with one walk against six strikeouts. In fact, after jumping out to a strong .318/.521/.455 start in May, Horwitz had been struggling badly, hitting just .209/.294/.296 over the ensuing 10 weeks.
That Sunday just over a month was the last time Horwitz failed to get a hit in a game. Horwitz started every game the next week in Everett, recording a hit and a walk in each, and three multi hit game. He started the series against Tri-City with a pair of four hit games, and kept it up back in Hillsboro, and then again back in Everett. That made for four straight six-game series with hits, a 24 game hitting streak.
Vancouver was re-classified to the advanced-A level in this offseason’s minor league reorganization, having previously been a short season team in the Northwest League. The slightly shrunken and unimaginatively named High-A West league is the successor to the NWL, with its record book carrying over, and the record for longest hitting streak having stood since 1962 at 26 games.
On Wednesday, Horwitz lined a single to centrefield in the first inning to match Gary Johnson’s 59-year-old record. Interestingly, Johnson (who passed away in 2012) was later a scout who signed Donnie Murphy, the C’s current manager.
Last night Horwitz was hit-by-a-pitch in the first inning by Spokane starter Chris McMahon, and grounded to second on a 2-1 pitch his second time up. Reliever Moises Ceja came in for the 5th inning, and had the first tow reach on three pitches to bring Horwitz up. With a 1-0 count, at 8:50 local time, Horwitz lined a single to left field to set the record:
The only unfortunate part is that is came before 106 fans at the C’s “home away from hone” rather than 6,000+ at a packed Nat Bailey in Vancouver.
For good measure, 23 minutes later in the 6th he pounded another line drive into right field for a second hit. That was his 13th multi-game of the streak (3x four hit games, 2x three hit games, 8x two hits), over which he’s hit a scorching .440/.532/.743 in 132 PA, with 12 doubles, 7 home runs and 19 walks against 15 strikeouts.
There were a few close calls along the way. Notably, on Saturday night in Everett, Horwitz’s only hit in six trips of the plate (he walked twice) to extend the streak to 23 was a shallow fly ball to left field which was initially ruled an error before being changed within an inning. Vancouver’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel was adamant it should be a hit; Everett’s broadcaster Pat Dillon thought it was borderline. The second game way back on August 11th saw Horwitz get a hit in his only official at-bat, drawing three walks and getting a sac fly.
Horwitz was selected by the Blue Jays in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB Draft as a junior out of Radford University, where he posted .288/.387/.462 line as a three year starter in the Big South. The notable thing was how consistent his line was from year to year, and he had a solid run in the premier wood bat Cape Cod league (.279/.383/.382).
Still, it was surprising how well he took to pro ball, anchoring Bluefield’s lineup with a .330/.395/.471 line before earning a late season promotion to Vancouver. Jumping to full season ball would have been a more meaningful real test in 2020, but the profile has carried over the high-A level in 2021. It’s hit-over-power with a very good eye, as he leads the league in walks with more free passes than strikeouts. It is a bit of tough profile for a first baseman, but it will be interesting track his progress in 2022 in New Hampshire (where he might be if not for the streak and COVID outbreak).
Horwitz’s record somewhat overshadowed a standout performance from 2019 9th rounder Phil Clarke, who put up eight RBI last night, with a bases clearing double to the right-centre gap in the 1st, a three run homer in the 5th, and then a twp RBI double to left-centre for good measure in the 6th. After a slow start, he’s torn the cover off the ball since an IL stint in the first half of July (.314/.376/.536 in 170 PA since).
UPDATE: 9/12: After extending the streak to 28 on Friday by fighting off a 1-2 for a soft line drive in the 8th inning in what would be his last at-bat, the streak came to an end at 28 Saturday (9/11) after an 0-for-4 where the best contact was a first inning right out to right (then strikeout swinging, groundout to the pitcher, and finally a popout to SS)