Smokies win home opener
Tennessee right-hander C.J. Edwards allowed a lone earned run in 5 2/3 innings, while catcher Rafael Lopez came through in the clutch with a two-out two-run double in the sixth, to propel the Smokies to a 3-1 home opener victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts in front of 4,899 fans on Friday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The series opening win improves Tennessee’s record to 2-4 on the year and snaps a three-game losing skid, while the defeat drops Chattanooga to a similar 2-4 mark in 2014.
Edwards and Chattanooga starter Carlos Frias matched each other until the fourth, when Chattanooga opened the scoring by taking advantage of a leadoff hit. Darnell Sweeney began the frame with a single to right, moved to second on a groundout and then to third on a wild pitch. He came home when Scott Schebler reached on a fielder’s choice by beating out a potential double play to extend the inning.
The right-hander also ran into trouble in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs before yielding to reliever P.J. Francescon. Francescon shut the door to preserve the one-run deficit. Schebler reached on his second fielder’s choice of the contest before Ozzie Martinez singled and Noel Cuevas walked to load the bases for Frias, who was sent down by Francescon on a groundout to second.
Lopez delivered the clutch two-run double in the next frame to push Tennessee ahead. Kris Bryant started the two-out rally with a single to center, while Dustin Geiger reached base on a fielding error to set the stage for Lopez. After roping his go-ahead two-bagger, Lopez would go on to score on the play when an errant throw sailed into left, allowing the backstop to score from second.
Francescon (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 SO) earned the victory to improve to 2-0 on the year, while relievers Jeff Lorick (2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 SO) and Armando Rivero (1 1/3 IP, 3 SO) silenced the Lookouts hitters through the final two innings. Edwards (5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO) did not factor in the decision despite allowing the lone earned run on five hits, in addition to five strikeouts, while Frias (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) suffered the loss to fall to 0-1 and Rivero notched his second save in as many chances.
Lopez (2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB), along with 2B Stephen Bruno (2-4), each recorded two hits in the winning effort, while no Chattanooga hitters collected a multi-hit game. Lopez has also recorded at least one base knock in each of his last three contests.
The two teams will play the second tilt of their five-game set Thursday at 11:30 a.m. for the first Kids Health and Safety Day, presented by Kohl’s Cares and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.