By: Adam Kline
KODAK, Tenn. – Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez hit two home runs on the night, but the Tennessee Smokies were unable to overcome a six-run deficit and fell to the Birmingham Barons 8-5 Sunday evening at Smokies Park. With the loss, the Smokies fall to 21-14, 55-48, a half-a-game behind the first place Barons (22-14, 66-40).
The Barons struck first in the opening frame when Dan Black drove home Tyler Saladino with an RBI-double off Smokies starter Eric Jokisch to give Birmingham a 1-0 lead. The Smokies answered right back in their first inning. Matt Szczur led off with a single and then scored on Javier Baez’s ninth home run of the season giving the Smokies a 2-1 advantage.
Jokisch (8-10) cruised through the second inning but surrendered runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to give the Barons a 6-2 lead after five. Jokisch’s final line was five innings pitched, nine hits, six runs (five earned), three walks and four strikeouts. He threw 95 pitches, 53 of which for strikes.
Rubi Silva led off the second inning with his 23rd double of the season, extending his hitting streak to 14 games. He finished the night 2-for-4.
Spencer Arroyo (8-5) started off shaky but calmed down, going six innings and yielding seven hits, two earned runs, two walks and struck out six.
P.J. Francescon pitched two innings in relief, gave up four hits, one earned run, a walk and struck out two. Reliever Marcos Mateo gave up two hits, an earned run and walked a batter in his inning of relief.
The Smokies showed signs of life in the bottom of the ninth as Jonathan Mota roped a leadoff double to left and Chad Noble followed suit with a double of his own, scoring Mota from second. Baez hit his second two-run home run of the game in the ninth, scoring Noble from second and making the score 8-5. Justin Bour struck out to end the game for the Smokies.
Baez finished the evening 2-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs. Andreoli went 2-for-4 and raised his batting average to .302 in the process.
The second game of the five-game series is Monday at 7:15 p.m. at Smokies Park. Smokies starter Dae-Eun Rhee (2-0, 1.89) will face off against Barons starter Stephen McCray (9-6, 3.36). Both teams will be donning Negro League Era jerseys, Tennessee will wear replicas of the 1938-39 Knoxville Black Giants and the Barons will wear replicas of the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons.
AUDIO RECAP BARONS 8 Smokies 5