From the Smokies--
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Tennessee Smokies (36-23, 70-58) fell 4-2 to the Birmingham Barons (29-31, 73-57) Thursday night at Regions Field as the Smokies' bats mustered only four hits on the North Division first-half champions, just one night after pushing across 10 runs and churning out 13 hits. Tennessee starter Eric Jokisch went seven-and-two-thirds innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits while striking out six and walking one batter.
Tennessee took an early lead in the top of the third inning thanks in part to the hot hitting of shortstop Arismendy Alcantara. After John Andreoli smacked a two-out triple to left center field and Brett Jackson walked, Alcantara took a 3-2 pitch to right center, allowing Andreoli to score easily and give the Smokies an initial 1-0 lead. Jackson was called out at home plate on a phantom tag called by home plate umpire Jonathan Bailey, preventing the Smokies from taking a larger lead.
Jokisch motored into the bottom of the fourth inning without giving up a hit to Birmingham before Cody Puckett singled to left field to start a Barons' rally. Center fielder Trayce Thompson followed in the next at-bat with a single of his own to put runners at the corners before Dan Black launched a 1-0 changeup over the Smokies' bullpen in left field to give Birmingham a 3-1 advantage.
Birmingham loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of errors and an intentional walk. Designated hitter Brandon Jacobs stepped to the plate with one out and grounded a 1-1 pitch back to Jokisch who tossed to home plate and appeared to force the runner out at home. But Bailey called the runner safe on another questionable call at the plate and the Barons extended their lead to 4-1.
Javier Baez and Justin Bour began the seventh with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners, and Baez scored on a Christian Villanueva 6-4-3 double play to cut the Barons' lead to 4-2.
Tennessee did not get another hit in the eighth or ninth innings and Jokisch took the loss, going to 10-12 on the season while right-hander Chris Bassitt (4-2, 2.11) earned the win, pitching seven strong innings and striking out nine Smokies' batters while giving up four hits and allowing just two earned runs.
Tennessee returns to Smokies Park Friday evening to square off against the Mobile BayBears for their last homestand of the season. Right-hander Eduardo Figueroa (1-1, 2.45) gets the start for Tennessee while Mark Serrano (4-2, 3.75) will make just his fourth start for Mobile. First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m. EST.