Smokies left fielder Charlie Cutler delivered a clutch walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and drove in three runs, while third baseman Kris Bryant reached base five times and recorded three RBi in Tennessee’s 6-5 walk-off victory over the Mobile BayBears on Thursday afternoon in front of a crowd of 4,544 at Smokies Stadium.
With the win, the Smokies evened the series at 1-1, and improved their record to 25-21 on the season and could potentially gain a game on the first-place Huntsville Stars. The BayBears fell 28-18 in 2014 with the defeat, though they continue to lead the South Division.
After Mobile came back from a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth to even the game at 5-5, 2B Stephen Bruno led off the inning with an opposite field double to right. The BayBears then elected to intentionally walk Bryant to set the stage for Cutler, who lined the 1-0 pitch into right to cue the celebration.
Cutler not only capped the scoring, but also started it for the Smokies in the opening frame. Bruno again reached with a two-bagger and then moved to third on 3B Kris Bryant’s single, before both came plateward on Cutler’s two-run double to right-center. Bruno continues to pace the Southern League in doubles, having smacked 15 this season, including 13 in May alone.
Mobile would get one of those tallies back in the top of the second thanks to another longball from 1B Jon Griffin. After homering in each of his final four at bats last night, Griffin crushed a solo shot, his tenth of the season, to deep center for his fifth homer in as many at bats over a two-game span. The extraordinary feat was the first known occurrence in Southern League history.
The Smokies would open the lead to four with a trio of tallies in the second to go up 5-1. C Taylor Davis lead off with a base knock and advanced to second on an error and third on a sacrifice bunt. After SS Wes Darvill and Bruno drew free passes to load the bases, Bryant brought all three home with a bases-clearing double to center.
The BayBears cut the margin to three with a single tally in the sixth. LF David Peralta led off with a double, and subsequently scored on 3B Jake Lamb’s run-scoring double to narrow the Smokies’ advantage 5-2.
Mobile would then tie the game with their three-spot in the final frame. It began on CF Mike Freeman’s base on balls, before pinch hitter Raywilly Gomez singled to send up SS Sean Jamieson, who brought home Freeman with an RBI base knock. After Gomez scored on an RBI groundout, Peralta drove home Jamieson with a single to left.
Bryant (3-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB) led all Smokies batters with his three hits, while Bruno (2-4,3 R, 2 2B, 1 BB), Cutler (2-4, 1 2B, 3 RBI), Davis (2-4, 1 R) and RF Rubi Silva (2-4, 1 2B) all collected multi-hit efforts and at least one double. After entering today’s action third in the Southern League in batting average, the 22-year-old Bryant raised his mark to .335 in 2014. Peralta collected a Mobile-high three base knocks, while Jamieson and Lamb each tallied two hits as well.
Tennessee starting pitcher Corey Black (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO) did not factor in the final decision, relinquishing a lone earned run on just three hits, adding seven punchouts in five frames, while reliever Arodys Vizcaino (1.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) notched his first victory of the season. BayBears relief man Kaleb Fleck (0.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB) suffered the defeat after allowing the final run without recording an out in the bottom of the ninth.
The two teams are set to meet up again Friday evening, with first pitch slated for 7:15 p.m. at Smokies Stadium. Tennessee is expected to give the nod to right-hander Dae-Eun Rhee (2-1, 3.38) in the third game of series, while righty Justin Fitzgerald (2-0, 5.29) is set to oppose Rhee for Mobile.
It’s sure to be an action-packed Friday evening in Kodak, as it’s Fireworks Friday, with the best fireworks show in town following the contest, presented by Pepsi, Coors Light, Knoxville News Sentinel, WIVK and WVLT. It’s also the first Free Ride Friday of the season, with one lucky pre-registered fan winning a 2005 Jeep Liberty courtesy of Rusty Wallace Kia. All Friday night Smokies home games are also sponsored by Remote Area Medical.
Tickets for Friday night and 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 postgame comments below: