After last night’s thrilling walk-off victory, the Tennessee Smokies (17-9, 51-44) will play the middle game of their five-game series tonight against the Jacksonville Suns (14-12, 48-45). First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 PM from Smokies Park.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Tennessee’s comeback win last night kept them 2.5 games ahead of Birmingham for first place in the North Division. The Jackson Generals sit in third place five games back. As for Jacksonville, their loss drops them 1.5 games back of Mobile for first place in the South Division. As it stands currently, their position for overall standings has them in a playoff spot.
Jacksonville: Justin Nicolino (0-0, 0.00 ERA): Nicolino will make his Double-A debut after being called up from High-A Jupiter. A second round pick in 2010 by the Blue Jays, Nicolino posted a 5-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in 18 starts for the Hammerheads. Entering the 2013 season, Nicolino was labeled the sixth best prospect in the Marlins system according to Baseball America.
Tennessee: Austin Kirk (1-3, 6.43 ERA): Kirk is coming off his best start in a Smokies uniform tossing six scoreless innings in Jackson on July 12. Tonight will be his eighth start and fourth at Smokies Park. Pitching at home has been a problem for Kirk, who has an 0-1 record with a 10.03 ERA in three starts. In three starts against South Division opponents, Kirk is 0-2 with an 8.33 ERA.
LAST TIME OUT: The Smokies needed extra inning innings but walked up with the win last night over the Suns 3-2 in ten innings. Arismendy Alcantara hit a game-winning RBI double that plated Matt Szczur for the winning run with two outs in the 10th. After the Suns hit back-to-back home runs to start the game, Tennessee got a run in the 4th on an RBI double by John Andreoli and Javier Baez tied the game with a solo home run in the 8th.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Christian Yelich: Yelich backed up his three-hit performance in Game 1 of the series with another three-hit game last night. His home run was his first since May 16 at Mobile.
Jake Marisnick: Marisnick also homered last night for the 11th time this season, the most on the current roster. He has a three-game hitting streak and has hit safely in four of five.
Arismendy Alcantara: In a hectic week full of travel, Alcantara delivered the goods last night with a walk-off RBI double in the 10th inning. The double was his 24th and is now good for the Southern League lead.
John Andreoli: Andreoli tied his season-high last night with three hits including two doubles. His only other three-hit game came on June 29 in Montgomery.
KEY TO THE GAME: He avoided the problem in his last start, but Austin Kirk has still had plenty of problems in the first inning. 40% of the runs he’s allowed this season for Tennessee have come in the game’s opening inning.
TUNE IN: The broadcast will be available on our flagship station, The Sports Animal WNML AM 990 and on FM 99.1 in Knoxville beginning at 6:00 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.