Smokies catcher Charlie Cutler circled the bases for a game-tying inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning, while Suns first baseman Wilfredo Gimenez broke the draw with a clutch two-out RBI single to give Jacksonville a 6-5 series-ending victory over Tennessee on Monday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The loss was the Smokies’ fourth defeat in five contests, dropping their second half record to 13-12. Jacksonville, meanwhile, improved their mark to 14-10 since the All-Star Break, in addition to a 50-44 overall tally in 2014.
The Smokies got going early, scoring in the opening frame for the second consecutive contest. LF Pin-Chieh Chen began the Smokies order with a single, and then moved to third on SS Addison Russell’s double off the center field wall before RF Jorge Soler brought him plateward with a sacrifice fly to left to put Tennessee ahead 1-0.
Jacksonville, however, would answer the tally with a score of their own in the top of the third to square things up. 2B Alfredo Lopez led off the frame with a double, and then took third on a sacrifice bunt before being sent in on SS Austin Nola’s RBI groundout to make it a 1-1 ballgame.
The draw would not last long, though, as the Smokies got back out in front with a two-run fourth. After 3B Christian Villanueva’s two-bagger and Cutler’s base knock started the inning, CF Jae-Hoon Ha roped a run-scoring base hit to left to put Tennessee out in front, with pinch hitter Dustin Geiger following with an RBI double to left to plate Cutler and increase the margin to two.
The Suns would immediately jump ahead in the very next half inning with a four-run top of the fifth. Jacksonville would load the bases following hits from CF Isaac Galloway and Lopez, in addition to a walk by pitcher Jose Urena, before Galloway would come across via Nola’s second RBI groundout of the evening, while 3B Austin Barnes tied the game with a run-scoring infield single. After C J.T. Realmuto’s double down the left field line sent home Urena, the backstop would come home when Gimenez bounced out to third to push the Suns up 5-3.
The back-and-forth would continue, as Tennessee made it a tie game in the last of the fifth thanks to some excitement from Cutler. Following Villanueva’s second double of the contest, Cutler hit a line drive that sank underneath the center fielder’s glove and rolled all the way to the wall, with Cutler circling the bases and beating the cutoff throw home to nod the game even at 5-5.
Jacksonville two innings later would take back the lead with a single score in the top of the seventh. Realmuto began the two-out rally with a double to right, and then would come home on Gimenez’s base knock up the middle to bring home the go-ahead run and make it 6-5 Suns.
Realmuto (2-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI) was one of three Suns, in addition to Gimenez (2-4, 2 RBI) and Lopez (2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB), to record a two-hit effort in the loss, while four Smokies batters, including Chen (2-5, 1 R), Villanueva (2-3, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 BB), Cutler (2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI) and Ha (2-4, 1 RBI) all recorded multi-hit games. Cutler’s inside-the-park roundtripper is believed to be the first hit by a Smokies player since September 10, 2010, when former outfielder Tony Campana led off the contest by circling the bases as part of a 9-2 victory in the third game of the Southern League North Division Finals.
After Miami Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 SO) started the contest by making a Major League Rehab Appearance, Suns right-hander Joe Urena (6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) fired the next six and earned the victory after allowing four earned runs on eight hits, adding six strikeouts. Biscuits reliever and University of Tennessee Volunteer alum Matt Ramsey (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 SO) tossed two shutout innings in support of Urena to notch his eighth save of the year, while Smokies reliever P.J. Francescon (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) suffered the defeat.
Following an off day Tuesday, the Smokies will travel to Huntsville for a five-game road series with the Huntsville Stars, the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Tennessee is expected to send RHP Matt Loosen (4-3, 5.47) to the mound in the series opener, while the Stars are anticipated to counter with RHP Drew Gagnon (5-4, 3.26). First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night.
Tennessee will then return home on Monday, July 21 to begin a five-game set with the Mississippi Braves, the Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
Tickets for that game and the remainder of the Smokies’ 2014 home schedule are still available and can be purchased online at smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 286-2300.
Listen to Manager Buddy Bailey’s post-game press conference below: