Smokies left fielder Anthony Giansanti snuck home on an eighth-inning wild pitch to score the winning run, while third baseman and Southern League Triple Crown leader Kris Bryant recorded a game-high two hits as Tennessee topped the Mississippi Braves 3-2 in a series opening victory on Wednesday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The victory improves the Smokies’ record to 31-34 as they begun their final five-game series of the first half, while the M-Braves dropped to 37-28. The win was the second straight over Mississippi, as well as the third consecutive triumph at home for Tennessee.
Earlier in the day, the Smokies and Chicago Cubs jointly announced an extension to their Player Development Contract, extending the club’s affiliation with the Cubs through the 2018 season. After tonight’s contest, Tennessee owns a 554-485 regular season record (.533) since the two clubs aligned at the beginning of the 2007 season.
Following a one hour and 11 minute delayed start due to rain, the M-Braves got the scoring started in the opening frame thanks via small ball. CF Mycal Jones led off the contest with a base knock, swiped second and then advanced to third on a groundout, before coming home on a run-scoring groundout to take the early lead.
Tennessee, however, countered right back with a pair of tallies in the bottom of the frame. Giansanti bounced a single through the middle and subsequently moved to third on 2B Stephen Bruno’s double to left, before coming across on a wild pitch. Bryant then gave the Smokies the 2-1 lead by bringing home Bruno with RBI infield base hit.
Mississippi would then even the score in the following frame with small ball once again. This time SS Elmer Reyes began the second with a double to left and then took third on a groundout prior to coming plateward on an RBI groundout from RF David Rohm to make it 2-2.
Following the early spurt, the two teams’ bats were held quiet, with the Smokies taking advantage of a Mississippi miscues to snatch the lead. Giansanti reached via a fielding error, and then went from first to third on Bryant’s base knock to place the go-ahead run 90 feet away. With 1B Dustin Geiger up, a wild pitch skipped in the dirt and kicked off C Braeden Schlehuber just enough for Giansanti to scamper home and slide away from Schlehuber’s tag to push Tennessee ahead.
Bryant (2-4, 1 RBI) was the only Smokies batter to record a multi-hit effort, while 2B Emerson Landoni (2-4) was the lone Braves batter to accomplish that feat. Tennessee’s third baseman continues to pace the league in many offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown statistics with a .359 average, 22 homers and 56 RBI.
Neither starting pitcher factored in the final decision, both featuring similar lines in their five innings of work. Smokies starter Eduardo Figueroa (5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO) yielded two earned runs on three hits while adding three punchouts, while Braves hurler Jason Hursh (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO) relinquished two earned runs on five hits.
Tennessee relievers Tony Zych (2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 SO), P.J. Francescon (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB) and Armando Rivero (1.0 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO) combined efforts to fire the final four shutout frames, with Francescon earning his team-leading seventh victory, while Rivero notched his tenth save. Mississippi relief man Ryne Harper (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) suffered the defeat after surrendering the lone unearned tally in his two innings pitched.
The Smokies and M-Braves are scheduled to continue their series Thursday evening, with first pitch set for 7:15 p.m. ET. RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (3-3, 3.53) is anticipated to take the mound for Tennessee, while Mississippi is expected to counter with RHP Williams Perez (3-3, 1.91).
It’s Thirsty Thursday once again at Smokies Stadium, with drink specials available through most of the contest, including one dollar Domestic Drafts and small sodas. Gates will open at 6:00 p.m. ET, with season ticket holders able to enter at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets for that game 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: