KODAK — There were no fireworks after the game, but fans still got a late-inning show as the benches cleared in the top of the ninth after a hit batsman. Two players were ejected, but no punches thrown in a 8-3 Mobile BayBears victory over the Tennessee Smokies in front of 3,106 fans at Smokies Stadium Tuesday afternoon.
“We had a little bench clear,” Smokies manager Jimmy Gonzalez said. “It was unfortunate, but nothing happened. We had a couple of ejections, but we brought in a guy (pitcher Ben Hecht) and he got the out and that was it.”
Tennessee (9-17 second half, 42-53 overall) has made a habit of striking early in the series and Tuesday was no different. With one out on the board, Nico Hoerner sent a double arcing into right field, then was put on third thanks to a fly ball out from Vimael Machin. An RBI single from Jhonny Pereda put Hoerner on home plate and gave the Smokies a 1-0 lead.
Hoerner finished 2-for-5 with a run scored as he continues a break-out July where he’s recorded a hit in nine out his last 10 games since coming back from the 7-day disabled list.
“He (Hoerner) is getting adjusted from where he left off (when he was hurt),” Gonzalez said. “He continues to show glimpses of that and he’ll be alright.
The BayBears (13-12, 40-53) tied the game in the top of the third on an RBI from Jo Adell that brought in Connor Justus.
The Smokies retook command in the bottom of the fourth. This time it was Pereda who set the early tone with a lead-off base hit. A fielding error put Pereda on second and with two outs blinking on the scoreboard, Gioskar Amaya brought him in with a line drive RBI single into left field.
Pereda had a solid day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
“He (Pereda) has been hot for a while now,” Gonzalez said. “Definitely since the (All-Star) break. He continues to swing the bat well. He’s in that spot for a reason. He’s a guy that can come up with runners in scoring position and possibly do something. Hopefully, he’ll continue to do that too.”
Two innings later, Mobile took over in the top of the sixth. Jhoan Urena opened up the frame by drawing a walk. With two outs, Julian Leon drew another walk to put runners on first and second, ending Tennessee starter Erick Leal’s day.
Leal (1-1) took the pitching loss, going 5.2 innings with four hits, three runs, four walks and eight strikeouts.
With Manuel Rondon on the mound for Tennessee, a passed ball allowed both runners to move into scoring position and a two-RBI single from Erick Sacedo would give the BayBears a 3-2 lead. The run cost Rondon his second blown save of the season with 0.1 innings’ work and one hit.
With Jake Stinnett on the mound for the Smokies, the game got out of hand in the top of the seventh. Stinnett had no trouble getting the first two outs, but two walks and a base hit from Urena loaded the bags. An RBI base hit from Zane Gurwitz pushed Mobile’s lead to 4-2 and kept the bases juiced for Julian Leon, who knocked a grand slam into the Calhoun’s Party Deck, giving the BayBears an 8-2 lead.
“We had that rough inning,” Gonzalez said. “It was after two outs and a couple of walks. Then just some hits that they got. Once you have a big inning like that, it’s tough to respond.”
Tennessee picked up another run in the eighth, with Machin getting batted in by a Charcer Burks RBI double, but they could do no more damage at the plate.
Leon, in his next at-bat, was plunked by Smokies reliever Oscar De La Cruz and that prompted the impromptu team meetings in the middle of the field. Both De La Cruz and Leon were sent to the locker room.
Zack Kelly pocketed the win on the hill for Mobile with six innings, five hits, two runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.
The Smokies have the day off today, but hit the road for a four-game series at the Birmingham Barons beginning Thursday night at 8:05 p.m. Tennessee returns home to Smokies Park on July 22 for a five-game tilt against the Montgomery Biscuits. First pitch is 7 p.m.