CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - His nickname may be the "Daily Double", but "Captain Clutch" might soon be added to his list of monikers. For the second time in six games, Smokies' RF Billy McKinney came through with the game-winning hit in the ninth inning or later, as his go-ahead, two-run single in the top of the 13th inning proved to be the difference in Tennessee's 4-2 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts on Wednesday night at AT&T Field.
With the triumph, the Smokies moved back over .500 for the second half at 23-22 and improved to 62-52 overall. Chattanooga's defeat dropped them to 19-25 in the season's second leg and 62-50 in total.
The contest was even at two apiece before Tennessee's bats awoke in the top of the 13th. 2B Stephen Bruno (1-5, SO) kicked off the inning with a single to right, but was immediately erased on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by 1B Wes Darvill (0-5, R, SO). With two outs, LF Jacob Hannemann (0-4, 2 R, BB, 3 SO) reached on a walk and CF Albert Almora Jr. (1-4) was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
On a 3-2 offering from Lookouts' reliever Adrian Salcedo (1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB), McKinney (2-5, 2B, 3 RBI, BB) uncorked a liner into left field that dunked in for a base-hit. Darvill and Hannemann scampered home to score on the knock to put Tennessee back in front, 4-2.
Smokies reliever Starling Peralta (1.0 IP) capped the marathon with an easy bottom of the 13th. The right-hander emerged from the bullpen to retire the Lookouts in order to seal the extra inning victory and his fourth Southern League save of the year.
Tennessee carried a 2-1 lead before Chattanooga evened it up in the bottom of the eighth. RF Max Kepler (2-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB) led off with a single to center against Tennessee reliever Andres Santiago (3.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER, 3 BB, 2 SO) and 1B D.J. Hicks (1-6, 2 SO) followed with a line drive single that deflected off the pitcher. DH Travis Harrison (0-3, BB, SO) advanced the runners to second and third with a groundout to short, but was ejected from the contest after bumping first base umpire Alex Ziegler while arguing the call at first.
With first base open and one out, the Smokies elected to pitch to LF Adam Brett Walker (0-5, RBI, SO) and paid the price. The league's leader in home runs and RBI's knotted up the contest at two with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Kepler from third.
Chattanooga had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Santiago kept them at bay. C Stuart Turner (0-3, BB, 2 SO) reached on a leadoff walk and scooted into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by CF Shannon Wilkerson (1-5). The backstop was replaced on the base paths by pinch-runner Tim Shibuya before 2B Levi Michael (0-3, R, 3 BB, SO) drew a free pass of his own.
Following a fielder's choice, Kepler was plunked by a Santiago offering to fill up the bases. With a chance to drive home the winning run, Hicks clubbed a deep fly ball to right-center field. However, with the wind blowing in, the ball died at the warning track, as McKinney made the catch to send the game to extras.
McKinney put Tennessee ahead 1-0 with a RBI double to right in the top of the third, while 1B Jacob Rogers (1-5, R, HR, RBI, 2 SO) put the club's back in front, 2-1, in the seventh with a solo home run. The blast was Rogers' 12th of the season and his first as a Smokie.
Chattanooga tied the game up at one in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Corey Black (1.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, 2 SO) on a RBI double by Kepler.
Smokies right-hander Fernando Cruz (3.0 IP, 3 BB, SO) garnered his second victory of the season with three shutout and hitless innings of relief. Salcedo (1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB) suffered his first loss of the year for the Lookouts.
Neither starter factored into the decision. Smokies righty Felix Pena (5.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 3 SO) was stellar in his first start since July 26. The Southern League All-Star tossed five shutout frames and surrendered just a pair of hits. Chattanooga's Greg Peavey (8.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 SO) picked up a quality start after yielding two runs on two hits over a season-high tying eight innings of work.
McKinney (2-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI, BB) stretched his hit-streak to seven games with a team-best two knocks and a game-leading three runs batted in. Almora Jr. (1-4) stretched his hitting streak to nine games with a single to left in the 11th inning.
2B Stephen Wickens (2-6, SO) and Kepler (2-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB) led the Lookout offense with a pair of hits each.
The Smokies will look to continue their winning ways tomorrow night, as they are expected to send ace RHP Pierce Johnson (6-0, 1.61 ERA) to mound. Chattanooga is projected to counter with LHP Brett Lee (3-4, 3.73 ERA).
The Pilot Pre-Game Show will kick off the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. ET, leading up to a 7:15 p.m. ET first pitch from AT&T Field. Thursday night's broadcast can be heard exclusively on Sports Radio 99.1 FM and 990 AM, as well as SmokiesBaseball.com or via the TuneIn Radio app.
The Smokies will return home to square off against the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, on Tuesday, August 18.
Tuesday evening's affair will be a Nexgard/Heartgard Tail Waggin' Tuesday. Fans will be able to enjoy the contest with their dogs out on the berm courtesy of Nexgard/Heartgard.
Single-game tickets, as well as multi-voucher and season ticket packages are still available, and can be purchased online at smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 865-286-2300.
ABOUT THE TENNESSEE SMOKIES
The Tennessee Smokies are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Members of the ten-team Southern League, Smokies baseball has been entertaining families and fans of America's national pastime in the East Tennessee region for over 100 years. To learn more about the Tennessee Smokies, visit www.smokiesbaseball.com.