Alberto Cabrera ranks third in the Southern League with 66 strikeouts. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover
Riding a three-game winning streak, The Tennessee Smokies (31-26) will play their second doubleheader of the series as they finish up against the Jackson Generals (23-31). First pitch for Game 1 is slated for 12:00 PM ET from Smokies Park.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Smokies finally got to five games over .500 after failing in their seven previous attempts. They also gained a game on first-place Birmingham Tuesday night and now are 5.5 games back with 12 to play in the Southern League’s North Division. The hill is steep to climb, but the Smokies are still not out of the first-half race.
Jackson: Anthony Fernandez (2-1, 6.83 ERA): The Generals lefty is making his seventh start of the season and second against the Smokies. On May 16 against Tennessee, Fernandez was tagged for four runs on five hits including two home runs but did not factor in the decision. Fernandez was touched up in his last start as well against Huntsville on May 29 allowing four runs on five hits in 4.2 innings for the loss.
Tennessee: Alberto Cabrera (5-2, 3.70 ERA): Cabrera got back in the win column in his last start on May 30 in Birmingham yielding one run on six hits in six innings. The Smokies righty has been dominant on the road this season going 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA, but he has struggled at Smokies Park. In five starts at home in 2013, Cabrera is 1-2 with a 6.18 ERA. Cabrera pitched well in his lone start against the Generals on May 14 allowing one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings but did not factor in the decision. His 66 strikeouts are third most in the Southern League.
Jackson: Roenis Elias (2-5, 3.21 ERA): Like most pitchers on the Jackson staff, Elias has good numbers this season despite a losing record. He is winless in his last four starts (0-3) despite allowing just nine earned runs in 25 total innings (3.24 ERA). One of those starts was against the Smokies on May 12 when he allowed two earned runs (five total runs) on nine hits in seven innings of work and took the loss.
Tennessee: Eric Jokisch (4-4, 4.05 ERA): Today’s start will be the third doubleheader that Jokisch has taken part in this season. On April 29, Jokisch took the loss against Pensacola allowing three runs in five innings. He also started Game 2 of a doubleheader in Chattanooga on May 20 earning a no decision despite firing six scoreless innings. In his lone start against the Generals this season, Jokisch also did not factor in the decision has he allowed two earned runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings. In day starts this season, Jokisch has fared well with a 2-1 record and a 2.70 ERA in four starts.
LAST TIME OUT: Tennessee held on to win a back-and-forth affair Tuesday night over Jackson 8-6 to move within 5.5 games of first place. The Smokies scored four times in the second inning to move ahead 4-1, but fell behind 6-4 after four innings when James Jones hit a three-run home run in the top of the 4th. After Ty Wright brought Tennessee within a run in the 5th with a solo shot, the Smokies regained the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the 7th inning. Chad Noble collected the first four hit of his career and Matt Szczur went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Frank Batista recorded the final four outs for his team-best 8th save of the season.
JACKSON HAILS SZCZUR: After three more hits Tuesday night, Matt Szczur’s mastery of Generals pitching continued. Szczur is 14-for-34 (.412) in the eight games played against Jackson including four runs and six RBIs.
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: The Jackson Generals have not been able to avoid rain clouds this past week. Dating back to last Friday, the Generals have had two postponed games and two cancelled games due to inclement weather.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ty Wright: Wright pounded out two hits in Tuesday night’s victory including a solo home run, his third of the season. All three of Wright’s home runs have come against the Jackson Generals. The other two came in one game on May 16.
Arismendy Alcantara: The Smokies shortstop went 3-for-5 Tuesday night to extend his hitting streak to four games. Overall, Alcantara has hits in 12 of his last 13 games and 17 of his last 20.
James Jones: Jones’ one hit Tuesday night was a three-run home run, his third of the season. He has put together a solid season so far but has struggled against Tennessee. In eight games, Jones is hitting just .192 (5-for-26) against the Smokies.
Steven Proscia: No hitter in the Jackson Generals lineup has struggled more against Tennessee Smokies’ pitching than Steven Proscia. Proscia has hits in his last two games, but is still just 2-for-23 with ten strikeouts against the Smokies in 2013.
KEY TO THE GAME:
GAME 1: The Smokies have been excellent this season against Jackson at scoring first and getting out to early leads. Generals’ starter Anthony Fernandez has had his greatest struggles this season in the first inning. He has allowed seven earned runs including two home runs and sports a 10.80 ERA in the first innings of his starts this season.
GAME 2: Jokisch has had his problems against left-handed batters this season. Lefties are hitting .333 against Jokisch with two home runs in 2013 and Jackson has a few left-handed batters that could cause him problems in Julio Morban, James Jones and Leon Landry. Jokisch will need to have a sharp curveball to keep Jackson’s left-handed hitters off balance.
TUNE IN: The broadcast will be available on ESPN Radio 106.53 WPFT, WJFC 1480-AM and 102.9 FM radio beginning at 11:30 AM ET with the Pilot & Oscar Mayer Pregame Show. You can also listen to the broadcast in its entirety on smokiesbaseball.com as well as the Smokies mobile app.