BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (release) -- Cubs’ pitching prospect Pierce Johnson struck out five over four plus and top third base prospect Kris Bryant was 3-for-5 with a run, but their efforts fell short as the Smokies suffered their most lopsided loss of the season 14-3 to the Barons at Regions Field in Birmingham on Tuesday night.
Johnson (0-1) started his Southern League debut with back-to-back walks, but came right back with consecutive strikeouts to end the opening frame. He struck out the final two he faced in the first and did the same against the first two in the second. He struck out four straight batters between the first two innings. Infielder Chris Curley broke up the streak when he reached on a two-out single in the second.
The Smokies (9-10) gave Johnson a 1-0 lead to work with after scoring a run in the fourth with hits from Kris Bryant and Rubi Silva. Bryant led off the inning with a double and Silva brought him home with a two-out single to center.
Both fourth inning hits were collected off Birmingham (10-9) starter Scott Snodgress. Snodgress (1-2) held Tennessee to a run on six hits and two walks over seven innings.
Curley had the first hit of the game off Johnson and would later score the first run. He led off the fifth with a walk, then moved to second on a Michael Earley single and scored on a single to center from Jaime Pedroza.
Pedroza was the ninth place batter in the Barons lineup and would end up being the final batter faced by Johnson in the game. Johnson pitched into the fifth and in the end allowed three earned runs on four hits over four plus innings. He walked four and struck out five in his Tennessee debut.
Searle followed Johnson and allowed both inherited runners to score. In all Searle faced nine batters in the inning and gave up six earned runs. He allowed four hits including back-to-back home runs to Josh Richmond and Rangel Ravelo in the fifth. Richmond’s was a grand slam that scored Micah Johnson, Gordon Beckham and Kevan Smith. Those three all reached after Searle entered the game in place of Johnson. It was Richmond’s third home run of the season and the second for Ravelo.
Birmingham scored eight runs in the fifth and added one more in the sixth. Beckham, who remained with Birmingham as part of a Major League Baseball rehabilitation assignment, doubled and scored off Searle in the sixth.
Searle allowed six earned runs on six hits over three innings. He also walked one and struck out three.
Jeff Lorick followed Searle and allowed five runs in the eighth. Three of the five scored on him were earned. Lorick allowed three hits including a two-run double to Ravelo in that inning. Jaime Pedroza started it by reaching on a fielding error by Bryant.
The Smokies managed to rally for a few more hits and scored twice in the ninth against Birmingham reliever Kevin Vance. Vance pitched the eighth and ninth after Snodgress went seven.
Jae-Hoon Ha led off the Tennessee ninth with a single to left-center and later scored on a Taylor Davis two-run single. Zeke DeVoss, who pinch hit for Anthony Giansanti earlier in the inning, walked and also scored on Davis’ single to center. The Smokies picked up another hit from John Andreoli in the final frame, but were not able to add on another run.