BIRMINGHAM – Smokies starter Matt Loosen allowed seven runs and nine total over just three and 1/3 innings and his offense was held in check by the Barons in a 13-3 drubbing in Birmingham on Saturday night.
The Birmingham (10-6, 38-47) victory put the Barons ahead by a half game in the second half standings and knocked Tennessee (10-7, 43-43) into second place.
The Smokies gave Loosen (4-3, 5.21) an early cushion to work with after scoring twice and collecting two hits in the first. The early rally started with a walk from Elliot Soto and continued with a double to right by Stephen Bruno. Soto scored on Bruno’s extra base hit and Tennessee took a 1-0 lead. Charlie Cutler chipped in with a one-out RBI single to center that scored Bruno and the Smokies led 2-0 going into the last of the first.
Both runs and both hits were allowed by Barons starter Nick McCully. McCully (4-7, 5.66) stayed in through the sixth and would allow just one more hit after the first. His offense also made things easier for him by rallying for three runs in the last of the first and seven runs in the fourth.
McCully scattered three hits, struck out two and gave up just three runs over six innings and earned the win.
Loosen walked two in the Birmingham first on just eight pitches. Both walks came on the first two at-bats of the inning and the Barons offense would deliver two doubles while scoring three times to take the lead.
Josh Richmond brought in two with a double to left in the first and Chris Curley did the same to score Jared Mitchell. The Barons led 3-2 after the first and would add seven runs on four hits in the fourth.
Loosen started the fourth by giving up consecutive singles to Richmond and Curley. A throwing error by Loosen on a Jeremy Farrell bunt would lead to a bases loaded jam and Loosen would fail to get out of it. He hit Martin Medina with a pitch and then walked Jaime Pedroza, forcing in two runs.
Birmingham led 5-2 after the walk to Pedroza and things got worse from there. The sixth run of the game scored on a Mitchell groundout and the seventh came across when Loosen lost a wild pitch while facing Thompson. Thompson then delivered the knock out blow with a single to left scoring Pedroza as the fifth run of the inning and Loosen left the game.
Loosen allowed nine runs with seven earned on six hits over just 3 and 1/3 innings pitched. He walked three and struck out two and failed to get past the four since April 19. He threw 62 pitches in the brief start, with 31 counting for strikes.
P.J. Francescon finished the inning and allowed an inherited runner to score. That run came in along with another when Rangel Ravel smashed a two-run home run to give the Barons a 10-2 lead.
The Barons scored seven runs on four hits and got help with one Smokies error in the fourth. They then added to their lead with a three run and three hit fifth. Francescon allowed five hits and four earned runs in his appearance.
Farrell and Medina both hit RBI doubles in the Barons fifth to extend the lead to 13-2.
Zach Cates finished the game and would keep the Barons scoreless over two innings pitched. He walked one and struck out two.
McCully was followed by Braulio Ortiz and David Cales who would pitch the final three innings. Ortiz walked two, but worked through a scoreless seventh. Cales allowed one hit, one run and walked four between the eighth and ninth.
The Smokies were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight. Birmingham, meanwhile, took advantage of the majority of their scoring chances and stranded only two. They were 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
The loss dropped the Smokies into second place in the second half standings and put them behind by two games in the five game series.
Game 3 from Birmingham is scheduled for a 4:00 PM ET start on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Corey Black is scheduled to start for the Smokies. He is matched up opposite Barons righty Chris Beck.