JACKSONVILLE – Smokies starter Eduardo Figueroa hit a home run in the third and Jeudy Valdez added a two-run single in the sixth and the Smokies defeated the Suns 4-0 in game two of a five game series at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Friday night.
Figueroa’s third inning home run broke a scoreless tie and gave the Smokies (29-32) a 1-0 lead on Chipper Smith and the Suns (32-30). Smith (2-1, 1.84) started and allowed Figueroa’s homer and two other runs over 5 and 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four in the loss.
Figueroa, in his first start with the Smokies, pitched into the fourth, but left after his pitch count climbed above 50. He started this season with Triple-A Iowa and pitched in eight games, seven of which came out of the bullpen. Figueroa’s 53 pitch and three and 1/3 inning start was his longest outing of the season. Reliever P.J. Francescon (6-4, 3.66) followed Figueroa and finished the fourth without allowing a run.
The home run was Figueroa’s first in his professional career and just his second hit as a pro. It was also the first home run hit by a Smokies pitcher this season.
Valdez added to the Smokies lead in the sixth after Tennessee knocked Smith out of the game. Smith started his final frame by retiring Elliot Soto, but he then gave up a double to Kris Bryant, walked Anthony Giansanti and then gave up an infield single to Jae-Hoon Ha. Ha’s single forced Smith out of the game and loaded the bases for Valdez who delivered a two-run single to right off reliever Jheyson Manzuela.
A pinch hit run batted in single off the bat of Rubi Silva scored Valdez in the eighth and put the Smokies up 4-0. Silva entered the game in place of reliever Zach Cates who relieved Francescon in the seventh.
Francescon allowed just one hit and struck out three over two and 2/3 innings and earned the win. He walked one and threw 40 pitches, with 24 counting for strikes.
Cates pitched a scoreless seventh and Hunter Cervenka worked a scoreless eighth. Cervenka walked the first batter he faced and gave up a single to the next. However, Alfredo Lopez, who walked to start the inning, attempted to move to third on Rafael Furcal’s single and was caught there on a throw from left by Giansanti. That out was the first in the inning and quieted the Suns rally. Moments after the out at third, the Smokies turned a double play to end the inning. One of three double plays turned by the Smokies in the victory.
Armando Rivero worked a scoreless ninth in a non save opportunity. He allowed one hit, but struck out the side while finishing the game. Rivero threw 15 pitches with 10 for strikes.
The shutout victory was the third this season for Tennessee and the victory evened them at a game apiece in their five game series in Jacksonville.
The series continues on Saturday afternoon with game three of the series at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Dae-Eun Rhee (2-3, 3.90) is the scheduled to start for the Smokies with first pitch at 3:00 PM.