Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover
HUNTSVILLE – Addison Russell hit a two-run home run in the first and a grand slam in the fifth while leading the Smokies to a 10-3 victory against the Stars at Joe W. Davis Municipal Stadium on Sunday night.
The victory moved the Smokies (15-15, 48-51) back to an even .500 record and into a tie with the Stars (15-15, 61-39) for second place in the second half standings.
Russell crushed a two-run homer in the first off Huntsville starter Brent Suter to give the Smokies a 2-0 lead. Rehabbing Major Leaguer Emilo Bonifacio led off the game with a single through short and after a Jae-Hoon Ha grounded into a force out, Russell stepped up and launched his home run to left.
The home run was Russell’s second with Tennessee since being traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Oakland Athletics earlier this month.
The Stars rallied back to tie the game with a run in the second and third and the game was tied 2-2 after four.
Kentrail Davis plated the first Stars run in the second with a sacrifice fly to deep left. Joey Paciorek, who was walked by Smokies starter Jeffry Antigua earlier in the inning, scored on the sacrifice and the lead was cut to 2-1.
Shea Vucinich brought in the tying run when he grounded into a bases loaded double play in the third.
Antigua allowed two runs and three hits over the first three innings. He also walked one and struck out one before the fourth.
Antigua left after the fourth with the game tied 2-2. Reliever P.J. Francescon followed Antigua and would be given a lead to work with after a four run Tennessee fifth.
The Smokies fifth started with a Jonathan Mota single through short and continued with a one-out single to right by Bonifacio. With two on and one out in the inning, Ha would then reach on a bunt single to third. That set the table for Russell and his grand slam to left.
Russell’s grand slam came on a 1-0 pitch and broke a 2-2 tie to give Tennessee a 6-2 lead. It was his second grand slam in his professional career and his second home run of the game. Russell was 2-for-4 with a career high six runs batted in for the Smokies in the victory.
Suter (9-7, 3.91) allowed both of Russell’s home runs and took the loss. He gave up eight hits and six earned runs over 4 and 2/3 innings.
Francescon (9-5, 4.15) pitched the fifth and part of the sixth and allowed just one run. He also allowed back-to-back doubles to Yadiel Rivera and Erik Komatsu in run scoring Stars’ fifth. Rivera scored in the inning on a Josh Prince groundout and the Stars cut the Smokies lead to 6-3. Francescon gave up three hits in his two and 1/3 inning outing and earned the win.
Andrew McKirahan relieved Francescon in the seventh and would stay in for the eighth. McKirahan kept the Stars scoreless and to just one hit over an inning and 2/3. Zach Cates pitched the ninth and struck out one while finishing the game.
Relievers Greg Holle, Manny Barreda and Tanner Poppe pitched the final half of the game for the Stars. Holle allowed two hits and struck out three over an inning and a 1/3. Barreda allowed two runs on two hits over two innings. Poppe also gave up two runs and walked two in his lone inning of work.
Barreda pitched in the seventh and allowed a two-run home run to Christian Villanueva. The home run put the Smokies up 8-3.
Poppe pitched the ninth and gave up a two-run double to Mota. The double moved Tennessee’s lead to 10-3 in the ninth.
The Smokies scored 10 runs on 13 hits in the victory and collected three home runs for the second time in the series. They were 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven men on base.
Tennessee won the finale, but lost overall in the series three games to two. Huntsville took game 1 and both games of a double header played on Saturday night.