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Thursday Pebble Report:

Colorado Springs: L 4-5

Sean Smith pitched for the first time since the beginning of May and threw three shutout innings in relief of Josh Towers. Micah Bowie also had his third rehab appearance with the Sky Sox, which wasn't quite as successful as the first two as he gave two runs and the lead in the ninth inning. This was the third straight one run loss to Fresno for Colorado Springs. Dustan Mohr and Doug Bernier both homered for our side.

Tulsa: W 7-4

The Drillers completed a four game sweep of the Naturals thanks to three RBI from Dexter Fowler (on a single and double) and homeruns from Jeff Kindel and Tony Blanco. Daniel Carte also chipped in a pair of hits and Xavier Cedeno picked up the win.

Modesto: W 5-2

The big news of this game was Troy Tulowitzki's rehab appearance, which was pain free and went without a hitch. Tulo knocked in Daniel Mayora with a sac fly to the warning track after a Mayora triple in the third and otherwise had some hard outs. Esmil Rogers pitched well for his seventh victory, which is tops on the team.

Asheville: L 0-1, W 3-2

The Tourists split a double-header with Augusta as they crept just the tiniest bit closer to securing the first half divisional crown. Local product and Giants top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner gave his hometown fans a performance they could be proud of, pitching a complete game shutout and winning a pitcher's duel with Bruce Billings in the first game. Giants fans think I'm biased against them because my assessment of the 2008 draft had the audacity to question some of their picks after the first two rounds, but I'm seriously worried by talents in their system such as Bumgarner. The lone run of the first game came on a McCormick Field special homerun just inside the right field foul pole in the first inning.

The homerun aside, Bumgarner's performance overshadowed Billings' second consecutive start with an outrageously high GB%. Seriously, what's happening with this guy? In two June starts he's had close to 70% of the contact he allows into play be on the ground after never having a professional month in which he had so much as a 50% rate, unless you count the seven innings he pitched with Tri-City last June (I don't). If you went through his college splits -which I can no longer access- you would see the same thing, about 40% GB's, sometimes lower. I thought May might have been a blip at 47%, but now I'm firmly believing that Billings must be doing something differently. The effect has been to see a sharp drop in his K rate but also a sharp drop in the amount of hits and runs he's allowing as well.

Game two had a more favorable result, ending with a Brian Rike to Darin Holcomb to Lars Davis relay to nail the potential tying run at home after a Noonan drive off Randall Taylor to the right field gap. Rike drove in one of the Tourists three scratched out runs, Kevin Clark and Warren Schaeffer drove in the other two, and Sheng An Kuo pitched a strong five innings for the win.