By Rennie Leon / smokiesbaseball.com
KODAK, Tenn. – The Tennessee Smokies came out firing on all cylinders in this week’s much-anticipated showdown with the Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League Championship Series. Chris Archer’s six-inning gem and Robinson Chirinos’ three-run home run propelled the Smokies to a 5-0 win over the Suns. The win, in front of 1,830 at Smokies Park, gives the Smokies a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.
Pitching dominated the early innings Tuesday. Jacksonville’s Elih Villanueva held the Smokies hitless through the first three frames, while Archer scattered four hits over three to keep the Suns at bay.
Archer was helped by a tremendous defensive play to end the third, as Villanueva’s attempt to score from first on a double by teammate Osvaldo Martinez was thwarted by a tremendous relay from CF Tony Campana to SS Marwin Gonzalez, whose perfect throw to Chirinos at the plate beat Villanueva for the third out of the frame.
Tennessee’s offense finally broke through in the fourth. After leading off the frame with a single, Tony Campana would advance to third on a throwing error by Villanueva to first. Brett Jackson followed with a towering ground-rule double to center to plate Campana and give the Smokies a 1-0 lead.
Later on in the frame, Chirinos blasted a three-run shot off Villanueva (1-1) to extend the Smokies’ lead to 4-0. The Southern League Postseason All-Star was 2-for-4 on the night with the three RBIs.
Tennessee’s Brandon Guyer, the Chicago Cubs’ 2010 Player of the Year, added another run in the sixth with a solo home run to left-center to make it 5-0 Smokies.
The lead was more than plenty for the Cubs’ 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Archer (1-1) struck out eight over six innings, walking one to get the win. He retired the final nine hitters he faced.
Archer’s performance rubbed off on the Smokies bullpen as relievers Aaron Shafer, Blake Parker and Esmailin Caridad were perfect over the final three frames, striking out a combined four Suns batters. In total, the Smokies retired the final 18 Suns hitters faced.
Tennessee will look to go up 2-0 on Jacksonville in the championship series Wednesday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. The Suns’ Tom Koehler will start against Chris Carpenter for Tennessee. Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.