By Cody Chrusciel / Smokies Radio Network
HOOVER, Ala. – Justin Bour’s three-run homer in the third powered the Tennessee Smokies to a 4-3 victory over the Birmingham Barons on Thursday night at Regions Park in the middle contest of a five-game series.
The Smokies opened the scoring in the top of the third, mounting a three-run rally with two outs. Logan Watkins walked and Jae-Hoon Ha singled off the pitcher, Spencer Arroyo, to put two runners on for Bour, who cracked a three-run homer to center field. Bour’s 16th clout of the season gave Tennessee a 3-0 lead.
The Barons broke through against Smokies starter Eric Jokisch in the bottom of the fourth when Erik Morrison lifted a solo home run to left to make it a 3-1 game. A bases-loaded walk by Brady Shoemaker in the bottom of the fifth cut Birmingham’s deficit to 3-2 and spelled the end of the day for Jokisch. Tony Zych entered in relief and got Seth Loman to ground out to strand the bases loaded.
The Smokies added an insurance run in the seventh when Mike Burgess led off with a double, advanced to third on a Dustin Harrington sacrifice bunt, and scored on a squeeze bunt off the bat of Elliot Soto to make it a 4-2 contest.
With the Smokies leading by two in the eighth, Kevin Rhoderick ran into trouble as he loaded the bases with no outs. Rhoderick gave way to closer Frank Batista with one out and Jose Martinez flew out to right field for the second out. With the bags still full, Carlos Sanchez grounded to third and Dustin Harrington couldn’t handle the ball cleanly, allowing a run to score to pull the Barons within one, 4-3. However, Batista struck out the next batter, Trayce Thompson, to preserve the Tennessee lead.
Batista returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and worked around a two-out walk to notch his league-leading 22nd save of the season. Zych (1-1) tossed two scoreless innings to earn his first Double-A win while Arroyo (6-3) suffered the loss. Jokisch allowed two runs on six hits over 4.2 innings for Tennessee, but did not factor in the decision.
With three more RBIs, Bour increased his season total to a league-best 105, putting him nine shy of tying the Smokies franchise record with 17 games remaining. Ha went 1-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to nine games while Watkins walked three times in an 0-for-1 night at the plate.
The Smokies and Barons continue their five-game series on Friday night at 8:05 p.m. ET when Tennessee sends right-hander Dae-Eun Rhee (8-6, 4.98 ERA) to the mound against Birmingham righty Jacob Petricka (1-2, 3.68 ERA) at Regions Park.
LISTEN TO GAME HIGHLIGHTS: August 16, 2012 Smokies 4 Barons 3