JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Tennessee Smokies (1-0 second half, 36-35 overall) carried the momentum from a red-hot end of the first half through the All-Star break, winning their second-half opener, 3-1, over the Jacksonville Suns on Thursday night at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
With the win, the Smokies’ 12th in their last 14 contests, Tennessee is back above .500 for the first time since April 23.
In the first meeting of the year between the teams, Jacksonville struck first when All-Star outfielder Jake Smolinski lifted a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the first. Smolinski’s first homer of the year put the Suns up, 1-0, but from there, Tennessee starter Nick Struck retired the next 11 batters he faced and Jacksonville would not score again.
Tennessee broke through in the top of the third, tying the contest when Logan Watkins led off with a single and later scored with two outs on an RBI single by Justin Bour. The next batter, Nelson Perez, gave the Smokies a 2-1 edge with a sacrifice fly in his first game of the year with the Smokies after being promoted from High-A Daytona earlier today.
An RBI single by Watkins in the fourth made it a 3-1 contest.
Struck (8-6) earned his fourth win in his last five starts, allowing one run on two hits over six innings while striking out seven. Relievers Ty’Relle Harris and Marcus Hatley combined to toss three scoreless frames with Hatley notching his third save of the season. Jacksonville starter Omar Poveda (6-3) suffered the loss, fanning seven but allowing three runs on nine hits over six innings.
Third baseman Junior Lake finished 4-for-5 with a double while Bour went 3-for-5 with his league-leading 53rd RBI of the season as the Smokies outhit the Suns, 12-4.
The Smokies and Suns continue their five-game series on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. when Tennessee sends right-hander Dae-Eun Rhee (4-2, 5.29 ERA) to the mound against Jacksonville southpaw Jose Alvarez (1-4, 4.66 ERA). Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m. on the Smokies Radio Network.
GAME NOTES: With the win, Struck joins Jackson’s Danny Hultzen and Huntsville’s Tyler Thornburg as the Southern League’s only eight-game winners. Both Hultzen and Thornburg have both been promoted… Ty’Relle Harris was ejected by umpire Jay Pierce in the eighth inning.
ABOUT THE TENNESSEE SMOKIES
The Tennessee Smokies are the minor league Class AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Members of the 10-team Southern League, Smokies baseball has been entertaining families and fans of America’s national pastime in the East Tennessee region for over 100 years. To learn more about the Tennessee Smokies, visit www.smokiesbaseball.com.