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Indians minor league recap: Matt Esparza whiffs 12 in career-best start

Also, Bradley Zimmer, Giovanny Urshela and Jesus Aguilar go yard.

Nearly every Tribe affiliate picked up a win yesterday, except for the stubborn Akron Rubberducks, who decided to get swept in a double-header.

The story of the day was great pitching as Will Roberts, Matt Esparza, Brady Aiken and Jhonneyver Gutierrez were all brilliant, giving up a combined one run over 20 innings of work.

Let's get to it:

Columbus Clippers 7, Norfolk Tides 4

Box Score · Clippers improve to 40-36

The front half of the Clippers lineup was hot fire yesterday as nearly all of the 1-5 batters had multi-hit games. Yandy Diaz, playing right field, led the way with a 3-4 day plus a walk while Abraham Almonte, Jesus Aguilar and Giovanny Urshela collected two hits apiece. Aguilar and Urshela also slugged home runs on the day, going yard back-to-back in the fifth inning.

While the offense was lifting off, Will Roberts was pitching a gem, twirling six innings of three-hit ball while giving up just one run and striking out five, although he did walk four hitters. Toru Murata had a rough time in relief, giving up three runs to allow Norfolk back into the game, but Josh Martin shut the door in the ninth for his second save of the season.

Akron RubberDucks 3, Trenton Thunder 4 Game 1 (F/7)

Akron RubberDucks 3, Trenton Thunder 4 Game 2 (F/7)

Game 1 Box Score · Game 2 Box Score · RubberDucks fall to 43-33

Despite the scores being the same, both of these games were very different. Akron outhit Trenton 9-4 in game one, but the Thunder collected three of their hits in a four-run second inning (which also included three walks). Akron fell behind 4-2 but couldn't quite get back in the game.

Recently promoted starter Nick Pasquale picked up the loss, giving up all four runs in five innings, walking five in total.

In the second game, Akron was out-hit 12-4 but they scratched and clawed their way back into the game, eventually tying it in the sixth on a massive blast to center field from Zimmer.

Unfortunately, flamethrower Casey Weathers promptly allowed a single, threw away a pick-off attempt and then allowed another single to give Trenton back the lead in the top of the seventh inning and Akron was unable to come back again.

Lake County Captains 1, Great Lakes Loons 0

Box Score · Captains improve to 41-32

This game was all about Captains starting pitcher Matt Esparza, who was downright brilliant. Despite only throwing 85 pitches, Esparza absolutely obliterated the Great Lakes lineup to the tune of seven shutout innings while striking out a career high 12 hitters and walking none. He scattered four singles and hit a batter, but also picked one baserunner off. This was an eye-opening performance.

Esparza only received one run of support on the day, but that would be all he needed. Francisco Mejia would walk and score in the second inning after back-to-back hits from Conor Marabell and Martin Cervenka. Mejia would extend his hitting streak to 22 games in the third inning with a two-out single.

Center fielder Nathan Lukes had a big day, going 3-4 at the plate as Lake County would win a nailbiter.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 10, Batavia Muckdogs 4

Box Score · Scrappers improve to 2-7

Sometimes, when you're struggling, the best medicine is beating up on a horrible team. After failing to score more than one run in five straight games, Mahoning Valley exploded for 10 runs against the winless Batavia Muckdogs.

The Scrappers actually had to play catch-up this game as starting pitcher Luis Jimenez only lasted 1.1 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, but the bullpen would shut them down the rest of the way.

Mahoning Valley's offense was extremely efficient, collecting those 10 runs despite only picking up seven hits on the day. The big inning was the fourth. After back-to-back walks and a sacrifice bunt, the Scrappers collected three huge two-out hits from Gabriel Mejia, Alex Pantoja and Jodd Carter to score six runs, which was more than enough to win the game.

Pantoja was the only player to have a multi-hit game, going 2-5 with a double, triple and four RBI. Relievers Argenis Angulo, Michael Letkewicz and Ping-Hsueh Chen were all brilliant out of the bullpen, each throwing at least two innings of shutout baseball to stem back the tide and help the Scrappers win. Neither of those three have allowed a run yet this young season.

AZL Indians 8, AZL Giants 2

Box Score · Indians improve to 2-3

Brady Aiken made his second appearance in the Tribe system and he again threw two scoreless innings, striking out two and surrendering two hits. He also picked off a base runner.

The offense looked to be silent, before exploding with a pair of four-run innings late to turn this game into a blowout. Recently signed 2016 sixth round pick Ulysses Cantu was brilliant in his professional debut, going 2-3 with a walk while scoring two runs. Not half bad for an 18-year old.

Elvis Perez and Jason Rodriguez also collected multi-hit gmes, picking up two hits apiece.

DSL Indians 2, DSL Pirates 3

Box Score · Indians fall to 9-10

The DSL Indians had this game in the bag, but blew it late. Starting pitcher Jhonneyver Gutierrez tossed five shutout innings, striking out four and only giving up two hits while the Indians opened up the scoring with a one in each of the first two innings on a pair of errors.

Unfortunately, the bullpen gave up one run in the eighth, then gave up three straight hits with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to allow the Pirates to walk off.

* * *

Advanced-A Lynchburg had a scheduled day off.