MONTGOMERY, Ala. (release) -- A pair of Tennessee pitchers combined to strike out 11 batters and allow just two hits, but the Smokies were unable to overcome a pair of second-inning home runs as they fell to the Montgomery Biscuits, 3-2, on Sunday night at Riverwalk Stadium.
Tennessee starter Nick Struck retired the first five batters he faced, but with two outs and the bases empty in the second, Tyler Bortnick lined a ball down the left field line for his third home run of the season. Tennessee manager Buddy Bailey argued that the ball was foul to no avail as the Biscuits took a 1-0 lead. Following a walk to the next batter, Greg Sexton smashed a two-run blast to left to give Montgomery a 3-0 edge.
Struck settled down, retiring 12 straight batters after serving up the home run to Sexton. In the sixth inning, Tennessee loaded the bases with no outs on back-to-back singles by Mike Brenly and Logan Watkins and a walk by Jae-Hoon Ha. Cleanup hitter Rebel Ridling then lined an RBI single off the glove of Sexton at third base to plate Brenly and cut the Tennessee deficit to 3-1. Mike Burgess followed with a run-scoring fielders’ choice to make it a 3-2 contest, but Montgomery reliever Marquis Fleming escaped the jam.
The Smokies (24-33) stranded seven runners on base over the final four innings, finishing the night 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position as they suffered their 10th one-run loss of the season.
With the win, the Biscuits (31-26) pull within a game of first-place Mobile in the South Division with 13 games remaining in the first half.
Montgomery starter Joe Cruz (3-6) allowed two runs on four hits over 5.1 innings to earn the win, while Struck (5-6) suffered the loss after yielding three runs on two hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in 5.2 frames. Kirby Yates worked two scoreless innings to notch his second save of the season for the Biscuits.
A night after he walked in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning, Tennessee southpaw Casey Harman retired all seven batters he faced in relief, striking out four to keep the Smokies within striking distance.
The Smokies and Biscuits continue their five-game series on Monday night at 8:05 p.m. ET when Tennessee sends right-hander Dallas Beeler (1-5, 4.22 ERA) to the mound against Montgomery righty Matt Buschmann (2-2, 4.30 ERA) at Riverwalk Stadium.