JACKSON – The Smokies were held to an unearned run on six hits and stranded just four men on base in a 2-1 loss in Jackson at Generals Park on Saturday night. The loss prevented Tennessee from completing their first series sweep of the season.
Jackson (3-7, 34-45) starter Matt Anderson allowed one unearned run over seven dominant innings and picked up the victory. Anderson (3-3, 4.53) struck out five, allowed five hits and did not walk a batter.
The Smokies (7-3, 40-39) got a leadoff single from Jae-Hoon Ha, but he has later caught trying to steal second for the inning’s first out. That theme stayed consistent throughout the night as the Smokies left only four of their eight total base runners in the game. They were also just 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position.
The Generals rallied for a run in the second and quickly discouraged Tennessee’s hopes of a five game series sweep. Pat Kivelhan led off the inning with a single off Smokies starter Joe Gardner and later scored on a two-out double to left from Dario Pizzano.
Gardner (1-2, 3.65) allowed a run and two hits in the second, but kept the Generals off the board in the third. Tennessee gave Gardner a new game to work with in the fifth after rallying for a run and two hits against Anderson.
Anderson started the fifth with a strikeout of Dustin Geiger and retired Jonathan Mota with a groundout. A fielding error by Ketel Marte on a Anthony Giansanti ground ball allowed the inning to continue and the Smokies took advantage with back-to-back singles. Jeudy Valdez moved Giansanti to second with a single through short and Elliot Soto followed with a single to right. Soto’s single scored Giansanti and the Smokies tied the game at 1-1.
The 1-1 tie, however, did not last long as the Generals scored again in the fifth. The inning started with a John Hicks double and continued with Gardner retiring the next two batters. With two outs in the inning, Gardner then allowed a single to Marte and Hicks came in as the go-ahead run.
Gardner left after giving up the lead and finished with two runs allowed over four and 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, did not walk a batter and struck out one.
Jeff Antigua finished the Jackson half of the fifth and retired the only batter he faced to end the inning. Antigua remained in the game for the three innings and managed to keep the Generals without a run. He gave up three hits, walked three and struck out two.
Richard Vargas worked the final two innings for the Generals and earned the save. He allowed a ninth inning lead off single to Stephen Bruno, but that was the only blemish in his outing. Vargas (S, 3) did not issue a walk and struck out two.
The loss prevented the Smokies from earning their first series sweep of the year. They had been up four games to none in a series two other times in the season and both times failed to complete the sweep.
The Smokies return home on Sunday night with the first game of a five game series against the Montgomery Biscuits. Sunday night’s game starts at 7:15 PM and is a U.S. Cellular Family Fun Day. Tickets to Sunday’s series opener and for the rest of the series can be purchased by calling (865) 286-2300 or by visiting smokiesbaseball.com.