Suns burn Smokies again
Chicago Cubs pitcher Felix Doubront pitches for the Tennessee Smokies on an rehab assignment during Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Suns at Smokies Park. The Suns won the game 9-7.
KODAK — To say the Jacksonville Suns have owned the Tennessee Smokies this series would be an understatement. For the third consecutive game the Suns treated the scoreboard like a slot machine, rolling up the runs in a 9-7 victory over Tennessee in front of 2,993 fans at Smokies Park Sunday afternoon.
The Smokies (32-31 second half, 65-67 overall) tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, but with two outs on the board and the tying run at the plate, Anthony Giansanti hit into a ground out to Jacksonville first baseman Viosergy Rosa. Sunday marks the best the Smokies have scored on the Suns, but the scores have still been circus-like. Friday Jacksonville beat the Smokies 18-1 and Saturday 15-7. In all, the Suns have outscored Tennessee 42-15 over three games.
“It was too much, too late,” Smokies manager Buddy Bailey said. “They’ve walked just two guys in three games and we’ve walked plenty. That’s been the difference. We’ve outhit them in every game. Most of the runs we’ve given up reach base on a walk. We don’t get a chance to defend them.”
The Suns (38-25, 74-59) and Tennessee meet up for game four of their five-game series inside Smokies Park tonight at 7:15 p.m. The Smokies hold a one-game lead over the Chattanooga Lookouts (30-31, 56-75) in the Southern League North standings with just six games to go.
Tennessee and the Lookouts face off in the final series of the season, a four-gamer beginning Thursday night in Chattanooga. Regardless of how Tennessee plays against Jacksonville in the next two games, the Smokies postseason rests on that final series. But, they could certainly help themselves by picking up wins in these final two games.
The issue Sunday for the Smokies was walks, even from starter Felix Doubront (0-1), who was in Kodak for a rehab assignment, his second since being acquired in a trade from the Boston Red Sox on July 30.
“I thought he (Doubront) pitched OK,” Bailey said. “I thought his command could have been a bit sharper. The main thing was that he got his pitch total up to where he needed it. He was up some in the zone but overall he put up a lot of zeroes.”
Doubront finished with 4.1 innings, five hits, four runs, three walks and five strikeouts. The disaster started for the Smokies in the fifth. Doubront gave up a double, then J.T. Realmuto reached first on an error from Tennessee third baseman Christian Villanueva. A fly out from Rosa put Alfredo Lopez on third and ended Doubront’s day.
Zach Cates, in relief for the Smokies, never found the plate, sending Lopez in on a wild pitch, then walking in two runs before helping Joe Benson home with another wild pitch. After a Joe Link single that scored Isaac Galloway and Brent Keyes, Cates’ day was done.
Tony Zych finished out the next 2.2 innings and Frank Batista pitched the eighth and ninth, giving up one hit and recording two strikeouts.
“Our position players are playing great,” Bailey sad. “Addison (Russell) made a great play. (Jae-Hoon) Ha made a great play to keep a guy to single. They’re busting their butts, but we’ve got to put more zeroes on the board.”
The Smokies put up 16 wasted hits in the contest. Pin-Chieh Chen finished 4-for-5 with a double. Lars Anderson went 3-for-5 with an RBI and Russell was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs.
-By Adam Greene, Tribune Correspondent