Columbus Notes - Simontacchi Showing Signs

Despite scattering 10 hits against Rochester, the Columbus Clippers were handed a 7-2 loss Wednesday afternoon. The Clippers endured the tough task of facing Rochester starter and last year's USA Today Minor League Player of the Year Matt Garza.  Although the Clippers were able to get men on base in all of the last four innings, they were unable to find enough run production to pull out the win.

Clippers' Batting Order: DH Bernie Castro, 2B Brent Abernathy, CF Darnell McDonald, 3B Tony Batista, 1B Robin Jennings, RF Abraham Nunez, C Juan Brito, SS Manny Alexander, LF Brandon Watson

Pinch Hitter: OF Cristian Guerrero

Starting Pitcher: Jason Simontacchi

Relievers: Edward Valdez, Jermaine Van Buren

- Darnell McDonald went 3 for 4 for the second straight day and was a home run short of the cycle.  He looked impressive in every at-bat and really showed his maturity level at the plate.  After the game, McDonald told that he hopes to continue providing the offensive production that he supplied Wednesday.  "You go through stretches where you get a few hits here and there.  I just want to keep it going," McDonald said.  "I just want to continue to put a good swing on the ball and hit the ball hard, and hopefully they'll drop for me."

- In the first inning, McDonald fouled off several pitches before striking out swinging.  It appeared as though he checked his swing, but the ruling was that he went around.  Although he dug himself in a 0-2 hole in his second at-bat, he protected the plate and hit a single to right field. In the sixth inning, McDonald hit a towering shot that went over the centerfielder's head and bounced off the wall.  McDonald came in to second with an easy double, and Abernathy and Watson scored on the play.  Finally, McDonald capped off his day when he turned on a 2-1 pitch and hit a stand-up triple to right field to start off the eighth inning.

- Jason Simontacchi made his second start for the Clippers since overcoming injuries that had kept him out of the game for almost two years.  Simontacchi was not as effective as he was in his first start, but the former St. Louis Cardinal showed many signs of his old form.  In the first inning, he allowed three hits, but was able to get out of the inning with runners on 1st and 3rd.  His most impressive stretch on the mound spanned from the end of the first inning through the fourth, as he retired nine out of 10 batters.  The only hit in that stretch was a bunt single yielded to Matt Tolbert in the second inning.  He got the all three Red Wings batters to fly out in the third inning.  In the fourth, Simontacchi nearly got out the inning unscathed, but Manny Alexander had a tough time on an infield single with two outs.  The next batter for Rochester notched a single, and Tolbert brought both of them in on a 2-RBI triple.  In the fifth inning, Simontacchi allowed a single to the leadoff batter, but after Juan Brito threw the runner out, Simontacchi retired the side. His day ended in the sixth inning after he loaded the bases with two outs.  All day, Simontacchi consistently maintained the velocity on his fastball, clocking in around 90-91 MPH.  His breaking ball was in the 77-78 MPH range.  He finished the day with 5 2/3 innings on the mound, giving up nine hits, six earned runs, one walk, and tallying three strikeouts.

- Brent Abernathy made great contact with the ball all day and went 2 for 5 with one run scored and no strikeouts.  In his first at-bat, Abernathy scored an infield single after the second basemen was unable to make the throw in time.  He lined out to short in the fourth inning. The best at-bat of the day from Abernathy came in the sixth inning.  With the second basemen holding Watson at 2nd, Abernathy hit the ball in the gap that was left open and into right field.  Abernathy ended the seventh and ninth innings with groundouts.  There were two men aboard in each at-bat.

- Juan Brito completed arguably the best defensive play of the game in the fifth inning.  Rochester's Tommy Watkins attempted to steal second base, but Brito threw a laser to second and sent Watkins trotting to the dugout.  In addition to his defense, Brito also had a productive day at the plate.  In his third plate appearance, he showed phenomenal patience by pushing a 0-2 count to 3-2 before registering a walk.  He had an infield single in his last at-bat to start the ninth inning.  His first two at-bats resulted in groundouts.  Brito finished the day 1 for 3. He left the game with an injury after his final at-bat, and Brandon Harper came in as a pinch runner.

- Brandon Watson provided some offense from the ninth spot in the order, going 1 for 3 with one run scored and no strikeouts.  His double off the wall in the sixth inning started the charge that brought in the Clippers' two runs.  Watson grounded out to the pitcher in his first at-bat. He recorded a fielder's choice in the seventh inning. H is speed out of the box enabled the Clippers to avoid being doubled up on the play.

- Jermaine Van Buren pitched the ninth inning for the Clippers and looked excellent on the mound.  Although he allowed one walk, he was able to force Lew Ford to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.  He also showed great movement when he fielded a put out to start the inning.

- Edward Valdez came on to replace Jason Simontacchi in the sixth and although he struggled with closing out innings with two outs, he provided an admirable outing in relief. His fastball clocked in around 91 MPH and his off-speed pitches were in the 80-81 MPH range.  Faced with the bases loaded when he entered the game, Valdez allowed a 3-RBI double on a hit to center field that was just out of reach of a diving Darnell McDonald.  In the seventh, Valdez retired the side in order.  He obviously was hoping for a better result than what he allowed in the eighth inning. He allowed a four-pitch walk, a single after being ahead in the count 0-2, and a wild pitch that brought in a run.  On the day, Valdez threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, one run, one walk, while striking out two Red Wings batters.

- Tony Batista was 7 for 15 in the four games prior to today's contest.  However, he was unable to continue his four-game hitting streak.  Batista went 0 for 3 with one walk and one strikeout.  He struck out in the first inning and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the fourth inning.  After registering a walk in the sixth, he flew out to center in the eighth inning.  Although he did not have his best day at the plate, he made a tremendous play in the field on a hard liner in the ninth inning.  Batista's glove helped turn a 5-4-3 double play that got the Clippers out of the inning.

- Abraham Nunez entered the game with confidence at the plate after hitting homers in his previous two games.  However, Nunez was only able to muster one hit in four at-bats.  He showed great bat speed and fouled off three pitches before striking out looking in his first at-bat.  The third strike appeared to be off the plate, and Nunez was visibly upset with the call. In the fifth inning, Nunez got ahead in the count and took advantage of the situation by smacking a 3-1 pitch to right for a double.  Nunez struck out in the sixth.  In his fourth at-bat, he failed to bring in McDonald who was waiting on third base.  He flew out to center on a 0-2 pitch to end the inning.

- Manny Alexander struggled from the plate against Garza, but showed improvement as the game progressed.  After pushing the count to full in his first at-bat, he chased a pitch off the plate.  In his second at-bat, Alexander struck out swinging. He hit a hard shot in the seventh that resulted in a fielder's choice.  Alexander hustled down the line to beat out a potential double play.  Alexander's day ended on a good note when he singled to right in the ninth inning. He was 1 for 4. 

- Robin Jennings started his second game in place of the injured Larry Broadway.  Jennings was hitting the ball very well with Harrisburg (.282, 3 HR) before being called up to Columbus earlier this week.  Against the Red Wings, Jennings was aggressive at the plate, often swinging at the first pitch of the at-bat.  He popped up to the shortstop in his first two at-bats.  In his third at-bat, Jennings fouled off several pitches before striking out.  He finished his 0 for 4 day with a groundout to the pitcher in the eighth inning. 

- Bernie Castro did not have the day he had in mind.  The DH went 1 for 5 from the leadoff position.  His hit came in the seventh inning off Rochester's Julio DePaula.  Although he got in a 0-2 hole, he fought back to 2-2 and fouled off a couple pitches before hitting a single to right.  He struck out to lead off the game and in his third at-bat.  Castro was aggressive in his other two at-bats, but could not reach base safely.  He grounded out to the pitcher in his second at-bat. In the ninth inning, he swung at the first pitch and flew out to left field.

- Cristian Guerrero made his second appearance for the Clippers after being called up from Harrisburg earlier in the week.  He replaced Brandon Watson in the ninth inning in an attempt to provide a spark for the offense.  Unfortunately, Guerrero lined out to left and ended the day 0 for 1.

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