Review: 2010


In 2010, the Smokies left little suspense in regards to their playoff hopes. The Smokies won both halves in impressive fashion en route to an 86-win regular season in what many call the best minor league team ever in East Tennessee. With the sweep of the halves, the Smokies now have won the North Division three consecutive halves dating back to 2009. The Smokies welcomed the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx to Smokies Park for the North Division Championship Series after the Diamond Jaxx secured the wild card. For the second consecutive season the Smokies looked to win the North Division Championship and play for a Southern League title.

History often repeats itself and that was the case in 2010 as the Smokies fell in game 1 of the North Division Championship Series much like they did in 2009. West Tenn took game one in convincing fashion by a score of 8-3. The result sent shockwaves around the Southern League at the seemingly untouchable Chris Archer, who had an earned run average of 1.80 in the regular season, was tagged for 6 earned runs in the loss. Much like the 2009 playoffs however, the Smokies bounced back and take game 2. Both offenses were being stymied at the plate by starting pitchers, the game was 2-1 in favor of Tennessee in the 6th inning when Robinson Chirinos sent a pitch over the left field scoreboard. The Smokies never looked back winning the game 11-1.

Game three would see the Smokies continue the hot hitting as the series moved to Jackson for one game. Tony Campana got his first homerun of the season and like many assumed would be the case, it was of the inside-the-park variety. The leadoff homer gave the Smokies a lead they would not relinquish as the final score would be 9-2 giving the Smokies a chance to clinch the division championship at Smokies Park in game 4.

With the chance to clinch, manager Bill Dancy sent Craig Muschko to the mound. The righty delivered for the Smokies pitching six strong innings allowing only two runs. The Smokies bullpen would take over and much like they had done all season, closed the door on West Tenn not allowing a run in three innings of relief. Steve Clevenger’s two-run homerun that broke a 2-2 tie in the 5th inning would be the difference as the Smokies won the game 5-2, capturing the 2010 North Division Championship. Awaiting them was the champion of the South Division, a familiar foe in the Jacksonville Suns.

Redemption was on the minds of everyone in East Tennessee when the Jacksonville Suns came to Smokies Park for game one of the Southern League Championship Series. In 2009, the Suns won the Southern League title over the Smokies in four games with the clinching win coming in Kodak. Pivotal was game one and Chris Archer got the start hoping to avenge his previous postseason start start where he gave  up eight runs in a loss to West Tenn. Archer pitched brilliantly in game one not allowing a single run while striking out eight. Smokies batters would not let the performance go to waste as Robinson Chirinos would yet again deliver for Tennessee as he had done all season long. With two men on and the Smokies holding a 1-0 lead in the fourth, Chirinos sent an Elih Villanueva slider over the left field wall giving the Smokies a 4-0 lead which was more than enough on the night as the final score would be 5-0.

In game two, the teams would go back and forth all night and headed to the ninth inning deadlocked at 6-6. The Suns started the ninth inning off on the right foot as Ryan Curry hit a frozen rope to left field for a single. Curry would then steal second base and take third base on the throwing error by catcher Steve Clevenger. Jeff Corsaletti would bring him home on a sacrifice fly for the eventual game winning run in the 7-6 victory for Jacksonville. As the series moved to Jacksonville, the Smokies bats once again were silent as they had been the previous trip to Jacksonville in July. Game 3 saw a brilliant performance by Suns starter Brad Hand. The lefty would toss 7 shutout innings as the Suns took the game by a score of 2-0. With their championship hopes on the line, the Smokies bats were once again silent as they failed to score in the final 19 innings of the SLCS. The final game was not without drama as the game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the 9th. Chris Hatcher led off the inning set to face Luke Sommer. With one swing, Hatcher could end the game and that’s exactly what he did. A fastball was launched into the bleachers in left field giving the Suns a walkoff homerun to win the 2010 Southern League Championship.