Barons starting pitcher Terry Doyle retired each of his final 14 batters faced, while catcher Kevan Smith recorded three hits and drove home two runs as Birmingham thwarted a late Smokies comeback attempt to avoid a series sweep and top Tennessee 6-4 on Friday night at Smokies Stadium.
Despite the loss, which dropped Tennessee’s 2014 record to 20-15, the Smokies won the series by winning four of five over the Barons. Birmingham improved their season mark to 13-21 with the victory.
Entering the ninth down four, Tennessee mounted a comeback effort and brought the winning run to the plate. C Rafael Lopez began the two-out rally with a single, while RF Jorge Soler followed with a double to left to bring up 1B Charlie Cutler, who brought both in with a clutch single to center. The tying run in RF Rubi Silva reached with a base knock to send up CF Jae-Hoon Ha, who was retired to end the contest.
The scoring started in the opening frame, when Birmingham plated four runs on just one hit. 2B Micah Johnson, DH Jeff Keppinger and LF Trayce Thompson began the contest with back-to-back-to-back free passes, before the first two would score when 1B Rangel Ravelo reached on the fielding miscue. Thompson and Ravelo would subsequently score on Smith’s two-run two-bagger to left-center to make it 4-0.
The Smokies would then cut the deficit in half in the next inning. Lopez and Cutler both singled, and eventually came plateward courtesy of Silva’s two-run double into the left-center field gap.
The Barons proceeded to open the lead back to three in the fourth by taking advantage of another fielding miscue. RF Joe De Pinto and SS Jaime Pedroza both got aboard via errors and advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, prior to Keppinger’s sacrifice fly to center, putting the Barons ahead 5-2.
The road team would add another insurance tally and their final score in the eighth, when RF Joe De Pinto walked, stole second and moved to third on a flyout, before being sent home on Johnson’s double to left.
Smith led all batters with his three base knocks, while Johnson and Curley also recorded multi-hit efforts. For the Smokies, Lopez (2-4, 2 R), Cutler (2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI) and Silva (2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI) all recorded two hits, with the latter two also tallying two RBI, while LF John Andreoli’s first inning walk extended his Southern League leading hit streak to 28 contests.
Birmingham starter Terry Doyle (6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) found his groove after yielding the Silva double in the second, retiring the next 14 batters he faced and earned the victory after tossing six solid innings. Lefty reliever Nelvin Fuentes (2.0 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO) picked up right where Doyle left off, retiring six of the seven batters faced, while Cody Winiarski (1.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 SO) pitched the eventful ninth.
Smokies righty Corey Black (3.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 suffered the loss to fall to 2-3 after surrendering five runs (three earned) on three hits, adding five strikeouts, in his three frames. Relievers Austin Kirk (3.0 IP, 2 H, 3 H, 2 SO) and Arodys Vizcaino (1.0 IP) combined for four shutout innings in support of Black, three of which were fired by Kirk.
Tennessee next hits the road to begin a ten-game road swing, starting in Jackson on Saturday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at The Ballpark in Jackson. The Smokies are expected to give the nod to right-hander Ivan Pineyro (0-2, 2.32), while LHP Kyle Hunter (0-1, 2.93) is set to take the mound for the Generals.
The club returns home to Kodak on Wednesday May 21 to open a five-game homestand with the Mobile BayBears, the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Smokies Stadium.
Tickets for all remaining 2014 Smokies home games are still available and can be purchased online at www.smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at (865) 286-2300.
Listen to Manager Buddy Bailey’s post game comments below: