Tennessee’s Joel Pineiro and Birmingham’s Nick McCully each fired seven strong frames in their starts, while the Barons took advantage of a wild pitch in the ninth inning to defeat the Smokies 2-1 in front of a season-high 6,819 fans on Saturday evening at Smokies Stadium.
Birmingham improved their record to 24-32 on the season with the victory and took a 1-0 lead in the series. It was the sixth straight defeat for Tennessee, who fell to 26-29 on the year with the loss.
Before the game, the Smokies saluted veterans who have served and continue to serve in the country’s armed forces with a special “Salute to Heroes” pre-game ceremony. Families of active military members, in addition to those who are still unaccounted for and have paid the ultimate sacrifice were recognized during the observance.
Tennessee’s Joel Pineiro (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO) and Birmingham’s Nick McCully (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO) matched each other step for step and posted similar lines, yielding a lone earned run on three hits in seven innings of work. However, despite their strong efforts, neither would factor in the final decisions.
The lone blemish on McCully’s resume came in the fifth, when the Smokies struck first thanks to a pair of doubles. 3B Kris Bryant led off the frame with a two-bagger to left field, and then came across on Dustin Geiger’s bloop double to right to put Tennessee up 1-0.
Pineiro faced the minimum through six innings, and retired 14 batters in a row after allowing a leadoff single in the second, however the Barons would even the tally in the seventh. LF Trayce Thompson led off the frame with a solo smash to left, his fifth longball of the season, to tie the contest at 1-1 and force no-decisions for both starting pitchers.
The Barons were finally able to get a run off Pineiro and even the tally in the seventh thanks to LF Trayce Thompson’s leadoff blast. The outfielder’s fifth roundtripper of the year to deep left tied the game at 1-1 and force no-decisions for both starting pitchers.
It was arguably the 35-year-old Pineiro’s best outing since September 4, 2011, which marked the last time the right-hander allowed just one earned run on seven or more innings pitched. The Puerto Rico native earned the win that day after allowing an earned run on five hits in seven innings pitched against the Minnesota Twins while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels.
Birmingham would plate their go-ahead run in the top of the ninth by playing small ball. CF Keenyn Walker began the inning with a single to center, took second on a sacrifice bunt and then stole third, before coming plateward on a wild pitch to push the margin to a 2-1 Barons advantage.
Bryant (2-4, 1 R, 1 2B) was the lone player from either side to record a multi-hit effort, marking the 19th time the 22-year-old has collected two or more hits in a contest this season. In his last six contests, the infielder has compiled a .526 average (10-19), adding six runs, two doubles, four homers, four RBi and eight walks.
Barons reliever Jarrett Casey (1.0 IP) earned his first victory of the season after firing a scoreless inning of relief, while Brandon Hardin (1.0 IP, 2 H) notched his first save of 2014. Smokies southpaw Hunter Cervenka (1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) suffered the loss to fall to 2-1 after allowing a lone earned run on one hit in 1.1 frames. Birmingham was victorious despite not recording a single strikeout in the contest.
The two teams are set to square off again in a Sunday matinee for the second game of their five-game set, with first pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET. Tennessee is expected to give the ball to right-hander Corey Black (2-4, 3.28), the Cubs’ No. 15 rated prospect, while Birmingham is anticipated to counter with right-hander Chris Beck (3-6, 3.79), the White Sox’s eighth-best prospect.
It’s Mom’s Day Out at the ballpark, giving the opportunity for all moms to enjoy a day of relaxation at the ballpark. The Smokies are giving free tickets to all moms as a walk up deal only, in addition to giving away special prizes all afternoon. It’s also U.S. Cellular Family FUNday, meaning families can purchase a special ticket package for the whole family.
Tickets for that contest 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 press conference below: