BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a pitching duel, the Tennessee Smokies (43-53, 10-17) overcame a ninth inning deficit against the Birmingham Barons (41-52, 14-10) to escape with a 2-1 win from Regions field on Thursday night.
It is the first time the Smokies have come back to win a game this season when trailing after eight complete innings.
Arms from both dugouts fooled batters in a combined six-hit game. At one point, 20 straight batters from both sides failed to reach base. Fittingly, the retirement party ended on a dropped third strike when Gavin Sheets beat the throw to first.
Blake Rutherford provided the first run on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning. Rutherford blasted a solo home run which proved to be the lone run until the top of the ninth. Smokies starter LHP Luis Lugo tossed four two-hit innings. Despite giving up an early homer, he settled in and went on to strike out six.
Seven two-hit innings from LHP Matt Tomshaw put him in line for the win until the Smokies scored in their last chance. He struck out seven throughout five innings while facing the minimum number of batters.
Gioskar Amaya’s single off Barons reliever RHP Codi Heuer ended a six inning drought of the Smokies failing to reach base. From the second to the eighth inning, 18 consecutive Smokies’ batters were retired by the Barons pitching duo of Tomshaw and Heuer.
Working out of the Tennessee bullpen, RHP Bailey Clark, RHP Allen Webster and LHP Jordan Minch all tossed perfect innings of relief to give their offense a chance.
After putting three men on in the first eight innings, the Smokies pushed four men to the basepaths in the ninth to take the lead. Roberto Caro hobbled to first after getting hit by RHP Danny Dopico (L, 2-2). While attempting to steal second, Caro advanced to third due to a throwing error by catcher Nate Nolan. A wild pitch from Dopico allowed Caro to come home to tie the game.
Next, Nico Hoerner and Vimael Machin each got on base due to walks which set the table for Jared Young to collect his 40th RBI of the season. With two outs, a softly hit ball along the third base line by sent Hoerner home making Young the hero.
The Smokies’ active save leader LHP Wyatt Short (W, 4-1) added another clutch performance to preserve the lead for Tennessee.
He worked around a two-out, bases loaded situation and forced Laz Rivera to fly out, ending the game.
Game two from Birmingham is scheduled for tonight at 8:05 p.m. Former 30th overall pick in 2017, RHP Alex Lange (2-2, 2.89), starts for Tennessee while Birmingham counters with LHP John Parke (1-0, 3.33).