Friday Pebble Report: Gonzalez, Nelson hit big, Friedrich dominant

Colorado Springs (14-6, 1st): W 14-4

The Sky Sox now have the best record in the PCL thanks to yesterday's romp over Sacramento and a loss by the Salt Lake Bees. Sacramento's only the second team with a winning record the Sky Sox have played this season, so it's good to see the team get off to a strong start.

Carlos Gonzalez had a huge game with five hits, including a double and two triples (he has a league leading five on the season), he also stole a base, scored three times and drove in five more of the Sky Sox runs. Jonathan Herrera and Eric Young Jr. each had three hits, and five other Sky Sox got aboard safely at least twice. Young added two more steals to tally 14 on the season so far.

Alan Johnson was again highly effective in five innings, his 63% GB rate on the season is second in the PCL among starters to the guy he was pitching against, A's prospect Vincent Mazzaro. Johnson obviously got the better of this matchup, he didn't allow a fly ball until a double two outs into the fourth inning. After a shaky fifth, wherein he allowed another double, a run to score on a wild pitch and a homerun, he gave way to the bullpen. Johnson's been very lucky with BABIP this season, but the GB rate in particular is highly encouraging.

Kurt Birkins pitches against Sean Gallagher, who's back to starting after a rough stint in Oakland's bullpen at the beginning of the season.

Tulsa (9-11, 3GB): W 9-8

The Drillers walked away with a victory after being down 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh by scoring all nine of their runs in the final three innings. The walk off hero was Johnny Bowden (Fight on, Johnny!!) who won the game with a three run bomb. This is what he had to say according to the Tulsa World recap:

"I just stayed on the pitch, it was a little up in the zone and all I was trying to do was shoot the right-center gap and keep the inning alive," Bowden said. "I got under it enough to get it out. 

"As soon as I hit it I knew it was gone, but I wasn't expecting a home run. I was expecting more like a single or a double." 

Chris Nelson hit a three run homer in the eighth to pull the Drillers within five and finished with three hits on the night, including a double that led to the Drillers first run in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan Harvey's two run shot earlier in the ninth inning kept Tulsa alive before Bowden's walk-off shot.

Starter Chaz Roe finished with an ugly line after starting off well. Roe pitched four shutout innings but fell apart in a seven run fifth. Shane Lindsay pitched a scoreless ninth for the win.

Jhoulys Chacin pitches for the Drillers tonight as he attempts to rebound from a disaster start in his last outing and a 1-3 start to the season.

Modesto (14-6, 0.5 GB): W 6-5

The Nuts were able to hang on for a close victory after stopping Bakersfield's rally just short. Brian Rike hit a two run home run and Wilin Rosario added a solo shot in the victory. Brandon Durden needs to be up a level or two to be considered a strong candidate to make the MLB, but for what it's worth he's tied for the league lead in starter's ERA at the moment (now that Jarrod Parker has been promoted to AA) although he drops to ninth in FIP. Durden pitched six innings, allowing just two runs on five hits and no walks.

Rike collected a pair of walks to just one strikeout, which is a positive sign for him, and Hector Gomez bounced back from a zero for five performance in his 2009 debut with a two for five day including a double. Unfortunately, he also had a fielding error for the second straight day. Charlie Blackmon doubled and scored a run but also struck out three times.

Modesto starts a series with a prospect laden San Jose team tonight. Reigning California League pitcher of the week Kenneth Durst takes the mound for the Nuts against Craig Clark in a matchup of similar control lefties. 

Asheville (10-11, 3 GB): W 6-5

Jordan Pacheco broke out of a mini 2 for 12 slump with a pair of hits and two RBI, he remains just behind teammate James Cesario in third place in wOBA in the SAL. Defensively, things didn't go so well, as Pacheco also collected three passed balls, a throwing error and allowed two additional wild pitches. Cesario and Kiel Roling were the Tourists who were the most impressive at the plate against top Yankees pitching prospect Andrew Brackman. Roling squared up on Brackman three times, including twice for hits, and Cesario hit a solid double off the big right hander. Most of the other damage off him was done by Asheville taking advantage of Brackman's defensive inability via the bunt hit and grounders that found some holes.

Christian Friedrich ran into trouble with his own wildness and Pacheco's troubles blocking the plate in a two run second, but finished with ten strikeouts in six innings, giving up just five hits and two walks and a 6-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Friedrich now has a 67% GB rate to go along with a 40.2% K rate, which is a huge sign of dominance when the sum of those numbers goes over 100. Like Poseidon was saying yesterday, don't expect him to stay in Asheville very much longer.

Tonight, the slaughter of the McCormick Field worms continues as Dan Houston (68% GB's thus far) goes up against D.J. Mitchell (60%), another two-seamer specialist who somehow slipped to the tenth round in last season's draft.

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