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George Valera brings the thunder in return from injured list

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Cleveland minor league recap for June 9, 2021

You can skip to roughly the 490th word of this post for the news you really came here for — George Valera is back, and folks, he is good. After missing almost a month with an oblique injury, one of the hardest hitters in the Cleveland organization made his triumphant return with a 2-for-2 day, including one ball that went very, very far.

Columbus Clippers 8, Iowa Cubs 5

Box Score · Clippers improve to 11-19

After some playful (and downright brutal) smack talk before the game, the Iowa Cubs couldn’t live up to their parent club and fell to Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, 8-5. Columbus won thanks to big middle innings from some prospects who could be contributing at the major-league level sometime soon if they haven’t already.

Daniel Johnson doubled in the fifth to score Ernie Clement and Nolan Jones doubled to score Johnson. In the sixth, Oscar Mercado added a double of his own to score two and Ernie Clement brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

The Clippers racked up 12 hits on the day, led by Jones and Connor Marabell’s three apiece. It was just Jones’ third multi-hit game of the season and his first since May 28. All three hits last night were doubles.

Eli Morgan, fresh off pitching in a monsoon in his major-league debut, allowed three earned runs in 3.2 innings of work. Justin Garza continued his impressive outings from the bullpen, this time allowing three hits and striking out three in two innings of work. He kept runners off of home plate and lowered his ERA on the season to 0.60.

Akron RubberDucks 7, Altoona Curve 6

Box Score · RubberDucks fall to 18-11

You cannot stop Tyler Freeman, you can only hope to contain him.

That’s exactly what the Altoona Curve pitchers did last night, holding him to only one hit. Freeman has been held hitless just three times this season and is slashing .351/.411/.474 against Double-A opponents. Keeping him on the bases just once in a game is an accomplishment worth celebrating if you’re the opposing team.

It wasn’t all Freeman hitting in the RubberDucks’ losing effort, though. Alex Call and Chris Roller each had two hits and Will Benson hit his second triple of the season.

Unfortunately, after a five-run sixth inning gave them the lead, the bullpen wasn’t able to hold.

Alex Royalty stumbled through 5.1 innings, allowing four runs and walking one. But it was Aaron Pinto who was ultimately given the loss, having given up one run in his 1.2 innings of work. Pinto also struck out three, though, and his only real mistake was giving up the go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Lake County Captains 8, Fort Wayne TinCaps 3

Box Score · Captains improve to 16-15

The Lake County Captains enjoyed an 8-3 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps last night, but more importantly, George Valera made his return from the injured list and was sensational. The 20-year-old went 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk in the blowout and eased the minds of everyone who has ever followed Cleveland prospects.

Brayan Rocchio had a solid day as well, going 3-for-5 with a home run (his fourth of the year), but the other big names on Lake County struggled. Will Brennan went 1-for-4, Jose Tena was hitless in four at-bats, and Aaron Bracho was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.

Hunter Gaddis rebounded nicely from his 2.1-inning disaster his last time out. He held the TinCaps to three earned runs over five innings, with seven strikeouts and just one walk.

Lynchburg Hillcats 2, Delmarva Shorebirds 3

Box Score · Hillcats fall to 16-14

Yainer Diaz did his best to spark a ninth-inning rally with a two-out home run, but it wasn’t enough as the Lynchburg Hillcats fell, 3-2, to the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The three outs in the ninth surrounding Diaz were all strikeouts — a common theme for the Hillcats in the loss as they struck out a combined 15 times. Hosea Nelson walked, but also struck out three times. Yordys Valdes avoided a golden sombrero only because he didn’t get a fourth chance to strike out — he went 0-for-3 with three whiffs.

The Hillcats recorded just three hits, including Diaz’s home run.

Randy Labaut turned in a good start, though, going five innings and striking out three. This was his first start of the season after pitching out of the bullpen in his first seven appearances.