Smokies’ season comes to an end
By Will Estep | (email@example.com)
KODAK — Errors have plagued the Tennessee Smokies all season. The miscues were a problem in game five of the Southern League North Division Championship Series on Monday night.
After four errors in a crucial fourth inning, the Smokies couldn’t overcome an early four-run deficit and ended up on the losing end of a 7-4 decision to the Birmingham Barons at Smokies Park in front of 2,042 fans in a game that lasted three hours and 12 minutes.
With the win, Birmingham moves on to face Mobile in the Southern League Championship Series. Tennessee’s season comes to an end with the loss.
After rough starting pitching from both teams in the early going, each bullpen had a reliever that settled things down. Matt Loosen allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings for Tennessee.
Birmingham got an insurance run off Loosen though, when Cody Puckett hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth to drive in Jared Mitchell and give the Barons a 7-4 lead.
Arismendy Alcantara reached in the ninth inning with a two-out single and then advanced to second base. That was as far as he would get though for the Smokies.
Barons relievers Ryan Kussmaul and Cody Winiarski combined to allow no runs in the final 4 1/3 innings. Winiarski (S, 2) struck out Javier Baez swinging in the ninth to end the game.
Early in the game, Baez did what he has done all season with a two-run home run off Birmingham relief pitcher Nestor Molina (W, 1-0) in the fifth. The home run scored Matt Szczur and cut Tennessee’s deficit to 6-4.
Birmingham took control in the top of the fourth with the help of four Smokies errors. Tyler Saladino led off the inning with a single off Tennessee starting pitcher Neil Ramirez (L, 0-1), who was making just his second start of the season for the Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate.
Ramirez lasted longer than Birmingham starting pitcher Myles Jaye, but he left the game trailing. Jaye gave up two runs on four hits and struck out three batters in two innings of work. Ramirez gave up five runs (three earned) on five hits, with three walks and no strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
Leadoff batter Micah Johnson hit a grounder to Tennessee’s Arismendy Alcantara in the fourth, but he botched the ball and it rolled into right field allowing Birmingham to take a 4-2 advantage. Mitchell also scored on the play as Taylor Davis’s throw to second rolled into the outfield allowing Mitchell to score making it a 5-2 Birmingham lead.
Johnson later scored after two more Tennessee errors giving the Barons a comfortable 6-2 lead.
Alcantara hit an RBI single in the top of the second that tied the game up 2-2 scoring Jonathan Mota on the play off Jaye. The right-hander allowed four hits and two runs in two innings.
Christian Villanueva got the scoring started in the first when he drove in Baez.
Birmingham answered with two runs in the second on back-to-back RBIs from Brandon Jacobs and Mike Blanke.
The Barons will play at Mobile in game one of the championship series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.