KODAK, Tenn. (team release) -- The Tennessee Smokies’ 1-2 punch of Rebel Ridling and the Smokies pitching staff was too much for the Carolina Mudcats to handle Saturday night at Smokies Park. In front of 5,049 fans, the duo carried the Smokies to a 6-2 win over the Mudcats (14-14, 37-61) to improve to 13-16 for the second half and 56-43 overall.
After Smokies starter Trey McNutt allowed a single run to score in the top of first inning. The Smokies answered in the bottom half of the inning, when Jim Adduci reached on a leadoff walk, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch by Carolina starter James Avery. Matt Spencer’s groundout to second base scoring Adduci and tying the game at one.
Both starting pitchers settled in after the opening frame, with neither team presenting a scoring threat until the 5th inning when the Mudcats had the bases loaded against McNutt with one out. The Birmingham, AL native forced Henry Rodriguez to fly out and then struck out David Cook to end the threat.
McNutt showed why he is considered one of the top pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system Saturday. In his longest outing since May 28th, McNutt scattered six hits over five innings, allowing only one earned run while striking out four Mudcat batters, but did not factor into the decision.
Tennessee broke the game open with a four-run sixth. Josh Vitters led off the inning with a double followed by a Ty Wright walk. Ridling’s 17th double on the year drove the pair home. Carolina made the call to the bullpen bringing in former Tennessee Vols pitcher James Adkins. Tennessee didn’t waste anytime welcoming Adkins, with back-to-back singles by Steve Clevenger, scoring Ridling, and Nate Samson. Clevenger would score later in the inning on a groundout by David Macias, giving the Smokies a 5-2 lead.
Carolina got one run back in the seventh on a Henry Rodriguez sacrifice fly and that would be all the runs the Mudcats would score against the Smokies bullpen.
Ridling hit his 14th home run of the season to give the Smokies an insurance run in the eighth inning, extending the lead to 6-2.
Following McNutt’s performance, Martinez (1-0) was equally impressive tossing three innings, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out two. Marcus Hatley retired all thee Carolina batters he saw in the ninth inning. Avery (5-9) took the loss for Carolina.
Tennessee and Carolina will play the rubber match of this five-game series Sunday evening at 5:00. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (0-1, 9.00) will start for the Smokies and be opposed by Kyle McCulloch (4-4, 4.67). Sunday’s game is the 100th game of the season for Tennessee and the Smokies will once again be celebrating 100 years of professional baseball in East Tennessee. For tickets fans can visit www.smokiesbaseball.com or call (865) 286-2300.