Hey Smokies Fans!
After a day off on Monday, the first and second half North Division champion Tennessee Smokies hit the road for the final seven games of the regular season. The Smokies will first stop in Jacksonville for three games against the Suns, before finishing the regular season with four against the Carolina Mudcats.
Tonight Tennessee will face the Jacksonville in a rematch of the 2009 Southern League Championship Series, and possibly a preview of the 2010 SLCS. Jacksonville native Jeremy Papelbon will start for the Smokies. Papelbon is 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA in 2010, and he’ll be opposed by Jacksonville’s Jose Rosario, who is 4-4 in 2010 with a 3.07 ERA.
Here are more notes on tonight’s game against Jacksonville:
Second Half North Division Champions: The Tennessee Smokies clinched the second half North Division championship on Sunday afternoon. Huntsville’s loss to Mobile in the first game of a doubleheader clinched the title for the Smokies, marking the second North Division title for the Smokies in 2010. Tennessee went wire-to-wire in the first half to win the North Division with a 42-27 record. This division title is the third straight half the Smokies have claimed the North Division championship, as Hall of Famer and manager Ryne Sandberg’s 2009 Smokies club took the second half title, before winning the North Division Championship Series over Huntsville and finishing two games short in the Southern League Championship Series.
Back to Jacksonville: This is the second series in 2010 that the Smokies have been back to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville since the first two games of the 2009 Southern League Championship Series. The Suns won both games over the Smokies on their way to a Southern League title. The first game was shadowed by controversial calls as the Suns went onto win 5-4 in ten innings. Jacksonville also won game two, a tightly contested pitchers‟ duel between Tennessee‟s Jeremy Papelbon and Jacksonville‟s Graham Taylor. The Suns came away with the 2-1 victory. Jacksonville clinched the title in game four at Smokies Park. In the first series between these two clubs in 2010 at the Baseball Grounds, the Suns took the four game series with three victories, with Tennessee winning the finale 11-3.
Hometown Hero: Tonight’s Smokies starter Jeremy Papelbon makes his home in Jacksonville. Papelbon has pitched in his hometown park before, including this season when he took a loss on July 9. Papelbon pitched collegiately in Jacksonville as well, pitching for the University of North Florida. Papelbon is 1-2 this season with a 5.03 ERA in 29 games and seven starts in 2010.
Canzler Near the Top: Smokies third baseman Russ Canzler is in second place for the Southern League home run lead. Canzler blasted his 21st homer of the season on Sunday afternoon as the Smokies fell 16-1 to the Barons. Canzler has hit 14 of his 21 homers in the second half of the season, and he began the year on the bench as a key pinch-hitter for the Smokies. Canzler’s 21 is second only behind West Tenn’s Carlos Peguero’s 22. While Peguero has hit one more homer and driven in four more runs than Canzler, Peguero has 131 more at-bats than Canzler in 2010. Canzler is hitting .288 in 2010 with his 21 homers and 60 runs batted in. His 21 homers is the most he’s had in a season as a professional, eclipsing his previous high of 16 in 2006 with Boise.
Our coverage begins tonight at 7:00p.m. with the Pilot Oscar-Mayer Pregame Show.
You can listen to the game here online on smokiesbaseball.com or on the Smokies Radio Network’s flagship station, The Sports Animal. We will be on WNML AM-990 until 8 p.m., then all signals (FM 99.1, 99.3) after 8 p.m.
Thanks for listening!