Smokies win fourth straight against Birmingham
Tennessee right fielder Jorge Soler drove in two runs and reached base four times, while third baseman Kris Bryant launched his third longball in two nights and center fielder Jae-Hoon Ha delivered the game-winning two-run single in the Smokies’ 5-4 toppling of the Birmingham Barons on Thursday night at Smokies Stadium.
The win was the tenth in 11 games, in addition to fourth straight for Tennessee, who improved their record to 20-14. Birmingham dropped their 2014 mark to 12-21.
Soler (2-2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB) participated in his first game since being activated off the Disabled List Wednesday, collecting two hits and two RBI, while reaching base all four times he came to the dish. Bryant (3-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI) led all batters with his three hits, including a titanic blast to left, while 2B Anthony Giansanti (2-4) also notched a two-hit game.
Birmingham struck first with a two-run second. Rangel Ravelo led off the frame with a solo shot to left, his third homer of the year, while C Kevan Smith tripled and then came plateward when a pitch skipped away from the catcher to make it 2-0.
The Smokies answered right back in the following frame to even the score. John Andreoli drew a walk, took second on Bryant’s walk and then stole third before both runners were brought in on Jorge Soler’s two-run double to deep center.
Tennessee subsequently snagged their first lead of the ballgame in the fifth courtesy of Bryant’s longball. The prodigious solo blast was the 22-year-old’s ninth of the season, extending his Southern League lead in that category.
Birmingham, however, would nod the game back to a draw at 3-3 in the sixth. Ravelo drew a two-out walk, and proceeded to swipe second, before being sent in on Smith’s run-scoring bloop single to center.
The Smokies would then grab the advantage again in the seventh. Stephen Bruno singled to right and Soler walked to eventually set the stage for Ha, whose soft fly ball to left bounced off the glove of the diving Michael Earley to allow Bruno and Soler to score, putting the tally at 5-3. Birmingham would tighten the contest to a one-run ballgame in the eighth with a groundout, but the Smokies would eventually hold on.
Tennessee starter Pierce Johnson (6 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO) did not factor in the decision despite his second straight quality start, striking out eight while allowing three earned runs on just three hits in six innings of work. Likewise, Birmingham starting pitcher Scott Snodgress (5 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO) also allowed three earned runs and received a no-decision.
Reliever Jose Veras (1 IP, 1 SO), who is with the Smokies on a Major League Rehab Assignment, earned the victory after firing a flawless seventh, while closer Armando Rivero (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO) notched his seventh save of the season after tossing the final two frames. Barons relief pitcher Parker Frasier (2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) suffered the defeat after giving up the two earned runs in his two innings.
The two teams are set to meet for the series finale on Friday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. The Smokies are expected to give the nod to right-hander Corey Black (2-2, 3.54), while the Barons are slated to counter with righty Terry Doyle (2-3, 6.83).