By Cody Chrusciel / Smokies Radio Network
Hoover, Ala. – The Tennessee Smokies split a doubleheader against the Birmingham Barons on Thursday night at Regions Park. The Smokies dropped the first game, 4-1, with Chicago White Sox’ hurler Philip Humber making a rehab start, before they shut out the Barons, 3-0, in the nightcap behind six scoreless innings from Nick Struck. Following the twin bill split, the Smokies record sits at 10-11 in the second half and 45-46 overall.
All the scoring in game one came in the first inning as the Barons jumped out to a 4-1 lead and went on to win by that score behind a dominant rehab start by Philip Humber.
Humber, who pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against the Seattle Mariners on April 21, allowed two hits in the first inning before retiring the final 16 batters he faced. In his third minor league rehab outing, Humber earned the win, working six scoreless innings and striking out five batters without issuing a walk.
The Smokies did their damage in the first, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead. Shortstop Junior Lake redirected the first pitch of the contest into right field for a leadoff double and advanced to third on a Logan Watkins sacrifice bunt before scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jae-Hoon Ha. Justin Bour followed with a hard-hit single, but Bour was the last Smokie to reach base in the contest as Humber and reliever Ryan Kussmaul combined to settle down the final 19 Tennessee batters of the day.
In his Double-A debut, Smokies starter Zach Rosscup (0-1) struggled mightily with his command in the bottom of the first as the Barons plated four runs. After retiring the first batter he faced, the 24-year-old southpaw yielded a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases. Brady Shoemaker then hit a grounder towards second base but Logan Watkins couldn’t make the play and two runs scored on what was ruled a single. After another free pass loaded the bags again, Jake Oester singled to make it a 3-1 contest, chasing Rosscup from the contest after he recorded just one out. Ty’Relle Harris entered and walked the first batter he faced to re-load the bases for Jake Oester, who singled home a run to put the Barons on top, 4-1. The Smokies escaped further damage when catcher Mike Brenly picked Seth Loman off third with the bases loaded and Dan Wagner lined out to right.
Harris pitched well out of the Tennessee bullpen, turning in 3.2 scoreless innings. Kevin Rhoderick followed with two scoreless frames.
Tennessee scored three runs in the top of the second inning and Nick Struck fired six shutout frames to become the Southern League’s first 10-game winner as the Smokies blanked the Barons in the nightcap, 3-0.
The Smokies accounted for all of the game’s scoring in the second. With two on and one out, Nelson Perez lined a two-run triple off the wall in right center to give Tennessee a 2-0 edge. The next batter, catcher Chad Noble, lifted a sacrifice fly to drive in his first Southern League run and make it 3-0.
Struck (10-8), allowed just three singles while fanning seven batters without issuing a walk while Frank Batista turned in a scoreless seventh inning to notch his league-leading 17th save of the season. Birmingham starter Cameron Bayne (6-9) allowed three runs on six hits over five innings in the loss.
The Smokies and Barons conclude their three-game series on Friday night at 8:05 p.m. ET when Tennessee sends southpaw Eric Jokisch (4-1, 3.04 ERA) to the mound against Birmingham right-hander Matt Heidenreich (1-0, 1.13 ERA).
NEWS AND NOTES: Juan Apodaca’s six-game hitting streak was snapped thanks to an 0-for-2 outing in game one… Birmingham left fielder Jared Mitchell, a Southern League All-Star, was ejected by home plate umpire Thomas Newsom in the bottom of the sixth inning in game two for arguing balls and strikes… The Smokies have split all four if their doubleheaders this season… Over his last six starts, Struck has allowed just four earned runs in 33.2 innings of work, good for a 1.07 ERA.
LISTEN TO GAME HIGHLIGHTS: July 12, 2012 Doubleheader