Smokies third baseman Kris Bryant slapped a run-scoring double down the left field line to extend his on-base streak to 24 as part of a four-run sixth inning, while starter Corey Black allowed a lone earned run in six solid innings to lead Tennessee to a 4-1 victory over the Huntsville Stars Monday evening at Smokies Stadium.
With the series-closing win, the Smokies improved to a game below the .500 mark at 12-13, while the Stars fell to a 15-10 tally in 2014. Tennessee's victories in the final two games of the series salvages a 3-2 series defeat to Huntsville.
The Stars started the scoring in the opening frame for the fifth straight contest, homering for the fourth time in that span. 1B Nick Ramirez launched an opposite field solo blast to left with two outs, putting Huntsville up 1-0. It was the third longball of the series and fifth of the year for Ramirez, who is now tied for first in the Southern League in that category along with Smokies infielders Kris Bryant and Dustin Geiger.
Tennessee would then strike with a four-spot in the sixth frame to surge ahead 4-1. Pinch hitter Charlie Cutler began the rally by being hit by a pitch and RF John Andreoli reached on a single to bring up LF Zeke DeVoss. The outfielder placed a bunt single down the third base line, which also drew a throwing error that plated both Cutler and Andreoli. DeVoss would then come across Bryant's RBI double to left, while C Rafael Lopez capped the scoring spurt with a run-scoring two-bagger of his own.
Black (6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO), named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week for the period of April 21-27 earlier in the day, earned the victory after allowing the lone earned run on three hits, adding five strikeouts. Reliever Jeff Lorick (2.0 IP) mowed down all six batters he faced for two perfect frames of relief in earn a hold, while Tony Zych (1.0 IP, 1 H) notched his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
On the other side, Starts starting pitcher Brent Suter (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) suffered his first defeat of 2014 after yielding three earned runs on five hits. Right-hander Eric Marzec (2.0 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) would follow his two scoreless frames behind Suter.
Andreoli (2-3, 1 R, 1 BB) and Lopez (2-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI) each recorded a multi-hit effort in the win, while no Huntsville hitters accomplished that feat. Bryant and Andreoli each extended their on-base streaks to 24 and 18, respectively, and are currently the first and second longest active stretches in the Southern League.
Tennessee has an off day tomorrow before beginning a five-game series with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, on Wednesday evening. The Smokies are slated to send right-hander Ivan Pineyro to the hill in the series opener, while the Lookouts have not announced their starter. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
The team will return home on Monday, May 5, to start a five-game set with the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Tickets for that game and the remaining 2014 Smokies home games are still available and can be purchased online at www.smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at (865) 286-2300.