Smokies designated hitter Charlie Cutler tied a single-game career-high with four hits, while right fielder Rubi Silva smashed a three-run homer and drove in four runs, as Tennessee plated eight in the fifth and collected 16 hits to beat the Birmingham Barons 11-7 in their series opener on Monday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The is the seventh in an eight-game span for the Smokies, and improves their 2014 mark to 17-14. Birmingham fell to 12-18 with the defeat, and have lost ten of their last 13 contests.
Cutler (4-4, 1 R, 1 RBI) led all batters with his four base knocks, while C Rafael Lopez (3-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI), 2B Stephen Bruno (2-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI) and 3B Kris Bryant (2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI) also recorded multi-hit efforts. In addition, the top five hitters in the Smokies batting order combined to go 12-for-24 with eight runs and six RBI, while RF John Andreoli collected a base hit to extend his on-base streak to 24, tying Bryant for the longest such stretch this season.
Both teams traded single tallies in the second to start the scoring. RF Josh Richmond double to center, and moved to third on a Smokies error, before coming plateward on a sacrifice fly to left to give Birmingham the lead. Tennessee would answer right back after Lopez led off with a double to center and then moved to third on a single prior to scoring on a fielder’s choice.
The Barons would then take the lead again thanks to the longball. C Kevan Smith launched his first roundtripper of the season with a blast to the opposite field in right, making it 2-1 Birmingham.
The Smokies, however, would then strike with an eight-spot in the last of the frame. Each of the first seven batters all collected hits, including a two-run base knock by 2B Stephen Bruno, and back-to-back-to-back RBI singles from Bryant, Lopez, and Cutler. CF Rubi Silva would then cap the scoring spurt with a three-run big fly to right, his third of the season to put Tennessee up 9-2.
The home team would add another run in the fourth to reach a double digit run total for the second time in 2014. Lopez reached with a two-out single for his third hit of the game, and subsequently scored on a Barons fielding miscue.
Birmingham fought back to cut the deficit to five with a three-run fifth. Smith started the rally with a double and would get to third on DH Chris Curley’s infield single prior to Richmond’s sacrifice fly to left. LF Michael Earley would bring home Curley with a double down the left field line, while SS Jaime Pedroza followed with an RBI single to right, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 10-5.
The Smokies then set new single-game season-highs in runs and hits by adding an additional tally in the sixth. Bruno began the inning with a double, and then came home on Bryant’s run-scoring single to center to push the Smokies ahead 11-5.
The Barons would cut the Smokies’ advantage to 11-7 courtesy of their second longball of the evening. 2B Micah Johnson drew a one-out free pass, and then would score when CF Trayce Thompson exited center stage with his third home run of the season and make it a four-run contest, though they would be shut down from there.
Barons starter Nick McCully (2.2 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO) lasted just 2.2 innings, yielding nine earned runs on ten hits in that span and is on the hook for the loss. Smokies right-hander Ivan Pineyro (4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO) did not factor in the decision after allowing five runs (one earned) on seven hits in his 4.2 frames. Reliever P.J. Francescon (2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 SO) earned the victory after firing 2.1 shutout innings in support of Pineyro.
The two teams are scheduled to meet again for a Tuesday matinee, with first pitch scheduled for 12:00 p.m. RHP Matt Loosen (2-2, 4.32) is slated to take the mound for Tennessee, while Birmingham is expected to counter Loosen with RHP Chris Beck (2-4, 5.06).
Every dog will have his day at Smokies Stadium tomorrow, with dogs welcome to join their owners for the contest as part of Tail Waggin’ Tuesday, presented by Frontline Heartgard. In addition, it’s a Pilot Prize Day at the stadium.
Tickets for that game and the remaining 2014 Smokies home games are still available and can be purchased online at http://www.smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at (865) 286-2300.