MONTGOMERY, Ala – Albert Almora, Addison Russell, Lars Anderson, Christian Villanueva and Charlie Cutler combined for 10 hits and Corey Black turned in another solid outing while leading the Smokies to their sixth straight victory as they defeated the Biscuits 7-1 on Monday night.
The Tennessee (31-26, 64-62) victory was their sixth straight and kept them at three games ahead of Birmingham in the second half standings. The Barons defeated Chattanooga on Monday night and the Lookouts fell to four games out of first behind the Smokies.
Montgomery (24-33, 59-68) committed four errors in the loss and never led in the game. Their starter, Dylan Floro, allowed just one earned run and two total while suffering the loss. Floro (9-13, 3.59) did not issue a walk and struck out three while completing seven full innings.
Corey Black started for Tennessee and pitched through the fifth. He allowed just one run, walked two and struck out four while earning the win. Black (6-7, 3.06) threw 84 pitches with 49 going for strikes over five while earning his sixth win of the season.
Almora, Russell, Anderson, Villanueva and Cutler were all 2-for-5 in the game. Russell also drove in two and scored twice while hitting his ninth home run with Tennessee this season.
Almora also made perhaps the catch of the year after robbing Richie Shaffer of an extra base hit with a sliding catch into the base of the wall in the sixth. Almora’s catch ended the sixth came with the Smokies leading 2-1 and with the bases loaded.
An unearned run in the second led to the first Tennessee run. Second baseman Stephen Bruno reached on a misplayed two-out grounder to third and would later score on a single to center from catcher Taylor Davis.
The Smokies led 1-0 after two and Black managed to hold that lead until giving up a run in the fourth. He allowed a solo home run to Alejandro Segovia and the Biscuits tied the game 1-1 in the fourth.
The Smokies took the lead back in their half of the sixth after Russell and Villanueva both doubled in the inning. Russell doubled down the third base line and Villanueva skied one off the right field wall to score Russell and the Smokies took a 2-1 lead.
Both extra base hits were allowed by Floro and were two of the seven total hits he allowed in his start.
P.J. Francescon followed Black and retired two, but left with two men on base in the sixth. Hunter Cervenka came in for Francescon and would eventually strand both inherited runners. He walked the first batter he faced in the inning to load the bases, but got out of the inning when Richie Shaffer flew out to deep right center. Almora caught Shaffer’s fly ball to end the sixth and did so with a sliding catch into the base of the wall.
Cervenka remained in the game for the seventh and struck out Jeff Malm before leaving the game. Blake Cooper relieved Cervenka and struck out two of the three he faced to end the inning.
The Smokies led 2-1 entering the eighth, but would rally for five runs in the inning and jump out in front 7-1.
Reliever Andrew Bellatti worked the start of the eighth in place of Floro. Almora started the inning with a single to left-center off Bellatti and Russell followed with a two-run home run to straightaway left. Bellatti then struck out Anderson, but then gave up a double to Villanueva and a single to Cutler.
Bellatti gave up four hits in the eighth and was removed from the game with one out in the inning. Parker Markel followed and would go onto to allow a run scoring single to Bruno. Villanueva scored from third on the hit and his run would be the last allowed Bellatti. Bellatti allowed four runs and four hits while recording just one out in the inning.
Markel finished the inning, but would allow two hits and on unearned run to score. He walked Pin-Chieh Chen with the bases loaded to force in a run and in all the Smokies scored five times in the eighth on five hits.
The Smokies have won two straight in the series and lead 2-0 in the five game set. Tennessee will send C.J. Edwards (1-1, 2.65) to the mound in game three. The Biscuits will counter with right-hander Albert Suarez (NR).