KODAK, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- Looking to reverse last night’s lackluster showing at the plate, the Tennessee Smokies were once again stymied by Huntsville pitching Tuesday afternoon. The Smokies were only able to muster six hits in a 3-0 loss to the Stars, in front of 3,407 fans on “Summer Splash Day” at Smokies Park. The loss dropped the Smokies to 8-7 in the season’s second half, 50-34 overall.
The Smokies had their chances against Huntsville starter Josh Butler, but had trouble with runners in scoring position. With one out and runners on first and second, Butler got Tony Thomas to ground into a force out and then struck out Marwin Gonzalez to end the early threat.
In the fifth, Tennessee again found themselves with runners on first and second, this time with no outs. Butler again was able to get out of a jam, getting Steve Clevenger to hit into a 4-6-3 double play and end another potential Smokies threat.
Tennessee starter Craig Muschko kept pace with Butler, holding Huntsville to three hits through the first five innings. He struck out two and walked only one, with 50 of his 72 pitches going for strikes.
Muschko would be relieved in the sixth by reliever Jeremy Papelbon. Huntsville pounced on the lefty immediately with consecutive singles by Brett Lawrie and Caleb Gindl. After a successful double-steal by the two, Steffan Wilson plated Lawrie with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 1-0 Huntsville.
Wilson came through again for the Stars in the eighth, delivering a two-run single off Tennessee reliever Ryan Buchter to pad Huntsville’s lead to 3-0.
The lead was more than enough for Huntsville’s bullpen and reliever Jim Henderson (S, 5), who preserved the win for Butler (2-4) with a scoreless ninth. Papelbon (1-1) took the loss for Tennessee.
Tennessee now heads to Jacksonville for a four-game series between the first-half Southern League North and South Division champs. The Smokies return home after next Monday’s Southern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 14, for a seven-game homestand (three vs. Chattanooga, four vs. Montgomery). Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.