Estes Strong In Rehab Start; Nippert Gets the Call

Shawn Estes looked strong in his final rehab start in Tucson; Dustin Nippert got the call he was waiting for, and while Stephen Drew waits to hear the Smokies bullpen looks stellar; Matt Chico has a rough outing, but the JetHawks bats manage to stretch things to 11 before finally losing; Koley Kolberg's road struggles continue for South Bend; a rash of Yakima errors should do them in, but an eight run ninth inning rally wins; Greg Smith and Travis Tully finish strong in Missoula.

Tucson 4 @ Portland 1

In what is expected to be his final rehab start before coming off the disabled list and rejoining the Diamondbacks Shawn Estes worked around four walks in six innings to pitch well, allowing only three hits and one earned run.  Two Sidewinders relievers also looking for a return trip to the big league club, lefty Javier Lopez and righty Greg Aquino, both pitched well, with Aquino earning the win after two innings of perfect relief.

After Portland took a 1-0 lead in the third the Sidewinders answered back in the sixth inning on second baseman Keoni DeRenne's third homer of the year, a solo shot.  The score would remain knotted at one until the ninth when the Sidewinders would finally break through against Portland reliever Jason Kershner.  After shortstop Sergio Santos (0-4) flew out to start the inning, center fielder Carlos Quentin (0-3) would walk and advance to third on single by right fielder Josh Kroeger (2-4).  A throw attempting to get Quentin at third was late, and Kroeger moved into scoring position on the play, so Portland elected to walk third baseman David Doster (0-3) to load the bases for left fielder Juan Camilo.  Camilo would collect his only hit of the day and drive in a run bringing first baseman Corey Myers to the plate.  Myers would fly to center, but not deep enough to score a run.  No matter, because catcher Juan Brito would come through with two outs, singling for his only hit of the day.  Two runs would score on the play, though Brito would be thrown out by Portland catcher David Ross after making too big a turn rounding first. 

The Sidewinders used a makeshift lineup, with DeRenne in the leadoff spot, Brito at catcher, and Camilo in left, after regular lead off hitter Andy Green was promoted to the Diamondbacks as part of their September roster expansion.  Estes' six inning stint helped the Sidewinders as well, since relievers Oscar Villarreal and Brian Bruney had both been called up as well. 

Montgomery 4 @ Tennessee 11

Adam Bass would have been the scheduled starter, but because of the double-header on August 31st he would have been pitching on three days rest, so the Smokies sent reliever Elvin Nina to the hill in just his second start of the season with Tennessee, and he gave them more than they could have asked for.  Nina gave up just two runs in 4.1 innings of work, his longest outing of the season, and far better than his previous start, a 2.2 inning, four run outing on July 3rd. 

After Nina another member of the Smokies bullpen would be asked to go longer than usual, and Justin Wechsler was up to the challenge.  Wechsler, who's longest outing prior to Saturday was three innings back on May 30th, was fantastic, allowing four hits and one run, while striking out three in four innings of work and earning the win. 

The Smokies bats exploded in the fifth inning, giving Tennessee control.  Second baseman Dan Uggla (2-4, BB, run) started the inning with a single, and after DH Chris Carter lined out, shortstop Stephen Drew (2-4, BB, 2 runs) and first baseman Jaime D'Antona (2-5, Dbl, RBI, run) both singled, chasing Biscuits starter Jim Magrane, but Montgomery reliever Jean Machi would have no better luck.  Right fielder Jon Zeringue (2-5, RBI, 2 runs) would greet him with a single, and after catcher Matt Morgan (1-4, RBI) grounded out the Smokies would take advantage of both their speed and power to put the game away.

Left fielder Marland Williams (1-3, run, 3 RBI) would single home two runs.  With center fielder Jarred Ball (0-3, two walks, run) batting Williams would steal second, and then score after Montgomery's catcher threw the ball away trying to get Williams stealing third.  Ball would then walk and steal second himself, before third baseman Adam Haley (2-5, 2 runs) would hit his fourth homer of the season.  Uggla would then single in his second at bat of the inning, and though Carter would fly out to Luis Mateo, giving him two outs in the same inning, he would come back later to hit a two run homer, his 10th, in the eighth.

The Smokies win came amidst a wave of celebration and speculation.  Smokies ace Dustin Nippert got the call he's been waiting for, as the Diamondbacks called Nippert up as part of roster expansion.  Nippert, whose season started late (May 29th was his first start of the season for the Smokies), was ahead of the game, as the 6'7" right hander was less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.  The speculation part of the night came as rumors continued to swirl about Drew's impending call up once the Smokies season finished Wednesday.  Drew is currently listed on both the 40 man and active rosters for the Diamondbacks, and with Royce Clayton stumbling toward the end of a one year deal with the Diamondbacks there are many both inside the Diamondbacks front office, and around the league, who are curious to see whether or not Drew might start his audition this week for the starting shortstop job with the D'Backs in '06.

Lancaster 10 @ High Desert 11 in 11 innings

Matt Chico had anything but his best stuff, but left with the lead, unfortunately the JetHawks bullpen couldn't hold it in a game punctuated by big scoring innings early, and shutdown pitching late.  Chico extended his streak of going at least five innings a start to 18 games since joining the JetHawks, but allowed 10 hits and nine runs in his five innings, the most of either he's allowed this season.  Chico also allowed a pair of homers in the game, the third time he's done so since coming to Lancaster in early June.

Two-out offense put the JetHawks up early.  After a double to lead off the second inning by first baseman Edgar Varela (2-6, 2 RBI, 2 runs) both left fielder Jay Garthwaite (1-6, run) and second baseman Neb Brown (1-5, BB, run) made outs.  With the inning apparently in hand Lancaster strung together four straight two-out hits, capped by shortstop a Danny Richar three run homer that put the JetHawks up five going into the bottom of the second inning.

The JetHawks would make it 7-0 in the top of the third when Varela homered following a single by DH Alex Frazier (3-6, run).  Richar would pick up another RBI in the fourth, and in the fifth Garthwaite would double and come home when Brown reached on an error.  Brown would eventually score as well on a single by third baseman Erik Schindewolf (3-5, 2 RBI, run).  Going into the bottom of the fifth inning the JetHawks held what seemed to be a comfortable 10-2 lead.  Unfortunately the bottom of the fifth was where Chico would stumble and the Mavericks would take advantage.

High Desert would score six times in the bottom half of the fifth courtesy of two walks and four hits, including two home runs.  The six runs are the most anyone has scored off Chico in a single inning since he came to the JetHawks.  Still, Chico held a 10-8 lead and JetHawks manager Bill Plummer allowed him to go back out for the bottom of the sixth inning.  After a double and a walk Plummer made the call to his pen, and Alexander Cremidan came on to try to put out the fire.  Cremidan, who has struggled in August despite opponents hitting just .228 against him this month, would get the first hitter he faced to ground into a double-play, but then allow three straight singles and a walk before Plummer again made the call to his bullpen, summoning Micah Owings.

Owings continued his fantastic work with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, allowing two hits and striking out three. 

Unfortunately the bats couldn't get hot again, as the High Desert bullpen combined to throw 6.2 innings of scoreless ball, holding the JetHawks down until the bottom of the eleventh, when left hander Reuben Kerbs walked two of the first three men he faced, and then threw a wild pitch to put both in scoring position before giving up a game winning single.

South Bend 2 @ Peoria 7

Silverhawks right hander Koley Kolberg continued to struggle on the road, allowing seven runs on seven hits and lasting just 2.1 innings.  This season the disparity between Kolberg's performance at home and on the road has been amazing.  He's now made 20 starts on the season, equally split between home and road.  In his home starts Kolberg is 3-3, averaging nearly seven innings a start, holding opponents to a .217 batting average and carrying an ERA of 2.01.  On the road however Kolberg has been a very different pitcher.  Though his record, 3-4, is similar, the rest of his stats tell a different story.  He averages less than five innings a start, with opponents raking at a .294 clip and a road ERA hovering at 6.52.

And unfortunately for Kolberg the offense never got it going.  The Silverhawks would be shutout, managing only four hits and two walks until the ninth inning, when right fielder Carlos Gonzales (1-4) would single to lead off the ninth, followed by an Augie Murillo (2-4, Dbl) home run to account for the only runs the Silverhawks would manage.

The lack of offense wasted stellar work by the Silverhawks bullpen.  Josh Perrault, Todd Stein, and Matt Elliott would combine for 5.2 innings of hitless, scoreless relief, walking one and striking out five.

Yakima 10 @ Boise 8

Starter Chris Kemlo would be victimized by five Yakima errors, leading to five unearned runs, but the Bears would make an incredible comeback, scoring eight in the top of the ninth inning, to come back and beat Boise.

Kemlo, who was coming off the best start of his professional career, a seven hit, one run complete game on the 29th of August, allowed two first inning runs on a pair of singles and a pair of errors.  The lone run in the third inning would come after an error, as would the single run in the fourth inning.  Through four innings Kemlo had allowed four runs, none of which were earned.  It wasn't until the fifth inning that Kemlo would finally allow an earned run, on four straight hits.

Another error would contribute to the carnage in the fifth inning, when Kemlo would finally be chased after allowing his 12th hit of the game, a double that would score two more.  Matt Krohe would come on and retire the first two hitters he would face to end the inning, but the score stood at 8-1 and it appeared Kemlo would be saddled with his eighth loss of the season. 

Catcher Manny Del Campo (3-4, two doubles) would drive home a run in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 8-2 but things looked bleak for the Bears heading into the top of the ninth.  Shortstop Derek Bruce would collect a double, his lone hit of the day, to lead off the final frame, left fielder Brandon Burgess (2-4) would follow with a walk, and then the Bears would get some pay back as right fielder Leyson Septimo (0-5) would ground a tailor made double play ball that the Boise second baseman would boot, loading the bases.  Third baseman Juan Olivares (3-4, two runs, 3 RBI) would triple all three runs home on the next pitch, and he would score on Del Campo's third hit of the day.  Suddenly the tying run was at the plate with nobody out.  Center fielder Kevin Williams (0-4) would become the first out of the inning, as he fouled a bunt off with two strikes, trying to move the runner into scoring position, but back to back wild pitches while Jo Jo Batten was at the plate would score the run.  Batten (2-5) would then double, putting the tying run in scoring position with just one out.  Boise would bring in their third different pitcher of the inning, but it would make no difference, DH Ramon Downing would come up with a single, his only hit of the day, to score the tying run.  First baseman Trey Hendricks was the ninth man to come to bat during the inning, and he would be the last to record a hit.  His two run homer over the right field fence would give Yakima a two run lead. 

Kyler Newby came on to record the save, striking out two of the three hitters he would face, and it would cap a great performance from the Yakima bullpen.  Krohe would throw 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, followed by a one hit, no run inning from Jason Urquidez, who would pick up the win.  Newby collected his second save of the year, lowering his ERA to 2.41, his opponent's batting average to .182, and his two strikeouts would give him 59 Ks in 37.1 innings pitched.

Helena 7 @ Missoula 9

Left hander Greg Smith continued to impress the Diamondbacks in his first season of pro ball, going six strong innings and allowing just one earned run on four hits.  Smith has now allowed two earned or less in seven of his 15 starts this season and his six strikeouts Saturday gave him 94 in 77.1 innings pitched. 

After Smith Vince Bongiovanni came on for two scoreless innings, giving him nine straight appearances without an earned run.  Things got scary again for the Osprey in the ninth inning as Jason Neighborgall once again had trouble finding the strike zone.  Things started well as Neighborgall retired the first hitter on a comebacker, but after a single, Neighborgall would go wild pitch, walk, passed ball, walk, wild pitch, wild pitch, walk.  Peter Duda would come on after that and strikeout the first hitter he faced before issuing back to back walks and being replaced by Donald Julio.  Julio would allow a single, but finally finish things off.

It was a good thing the bats were hot, since the late inning pitchers melted down.  Center fielder Travis Tully continued to show the combination of patience and speed the Diamondbacks haven't had at the top of the order in their history.  Tully was just 1-2 on Saturday, but that was because he walked three times, scoring twice and driving in two.  As usual third baseman Rusty Ryal was hitting, going 3-5 with a run scored and a RBI.  It was Ryal's double that started the five run third inning for Missoula.  Will Crouch continued to show patience as well, drawing his 39th walk in less than 200 at bats, and then first baseman Bryan Byrne laced a double to center to plate both.  After back to back strikeouts the Osprey lineup proved they could produce with two outs as well.  Catcher Mike DeCarlo (1-3) walked and moved to third on a double off the bat of shortstop Pedro Ciriaco (2-4, 2 runs, RBI) who would score on Tully's single one batter later.

 


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