Jeffrey Cunningham had a career night - blasting two home runs and driving in six - to lead the Tourists to a 9-5 win over the Columbus Catfish. The Tourists have taken the first three against Columbus and will look for the sweep on Tuesday morning.
Cunningham's second of two blasts came in the bottom of the seventh after a Michael Mitchell double and gave the Tourists a commanding lead they would not lose. He now leads the Tourists with 45 RBI and is tied with Brian Rike for the team lead with ten home runs.
The Tourists scored early and often in support of ace Jhoulys Chacin (8-1). Darin Holcomb's RBI single opened the scoring early for the Tourists, giving Asheville a 1-0 lead in the first. The T's would put up three in the third after two walks set the stage for Cunningham's first home run - a shot over the 36-foot high fence in right.
Columbus got an unearned run in the fifth when a throwing error allowed a run to score, but the Tourists struck back in the bottom half of the inning. Cunningham and Holcomb drew bases loaded walks, then Rike drove in a third run with a sacrifice fly to left. Columbus would add another in the sixth on a sacrifice fly of their own.
Chacin tossed eight innings, yielding just one earned run on seven hits and a walk. He struck out nine hitters while getting 13 ground ball outs. Randall Taylor came on to finish the game after the Catfish tallied three in the ninth on an RBI hits from Omar Luna, Jackson Brennan and Greg Sexton. Taylor got the last out to record his 15th save of the year.
With the win and the Charleston loss earlier in the day, the Tourists leave Memorial Day 18 games over .500 - their high water mark of the season - and hold a 2.5 game lead over the Charleston RiverDogs, which is their largest lead to date. The Tourists wind down the eight-game homestand Tuesday morning with Cory Riordan (5-3, 2.87) taking the ball for Asheville. He will face Alex Cobb (6-3, 2.40).
The game will begin at a special 11:05 a.m. start time as it is the second of two Education Days this season. Any fan that walks through the gate can show their ticket at any concession stand and receive a free slice of pizza and a Pepsi product compliments of Papa John's. The game can be heard on the Tourists flagship station WRES-FM.
The Asheville Tourists are the Single-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Tickets are available by contacting the front office at (828)-258-0428 or on the website, www.theashevilletourists.com.
For more information about season tickets, mini-plans and all premium seating at McCormick Field, contact the Tourists front office at (828) 258-0428.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.