(Team release) Smokies third baseman Kris Bryant recorded his first two-homer game of his professional career and drove in six RBI, while starter Dae-Eun Rhee fired seven solid innings in Tennessee's 12-1 series-clinching victory over the Birmingham Barons on Wednesday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The Smokies clinched a series win with their third straight toppling of the Barons, and have now won nine of their last ten contests to accumulate a 19-14 record this season. Birmingham dropped their 2014 mark to 12-20.
Baseball America's eighth-best overall prospect launched his big flies in the first and fifth frames, and marked the first multi-homer game of Bryant's professional career. A two-run double in the eighth crashed off the top of the left field wall and gave Bryant a new career-high with six RBI. He is also alone at the top of the Southern League with eight big flies this year.
It was Bryant's first longball that got the Smokies bats going in the first frame. RF John Andreoli led off the order with a single, then took second on a balk and stole third, while 2B Stephen Bruno walked before Bryant blasted his Southern League leading seventh homer to the opposite field in right, putting Tennessee up 3-0.
The Barons would get a tally back in the following frame with a roundtripper of their own. C Kevan Smith smashed a one-out solo shot to center, his second of the season, to cut the Birmingham deficit to two.
The Smokies, however, answered right back in the bottom of the inning with two scores. SS Jeudy Valdez began the rally with a single and then took second on Andreoli's free pass, before Bruno smoked an RBI double to left to plate Valdez, while Andreoli would then come across on an error on the play, upping the advantage to 5-1.
Bryant would then leave the yard again in the fifth with a solo shot to right-center to push Tennessee's lead to 6-1. Both blasts were launched by the infielder to the opposite field, with the second landing in right-center over 375 feet from home plate.
Tennessee would subsequently send nine batters to the dish and score three in the seventh for additional insurance. Bruno collected his second RBI double of the evening to right, while Cutler and Ha followed with a pair of run-scoring singles to go ahead 9-1, while Bryant's two-run double and Ha's second RBI single in as many frames increased the lead to 11.
Bruno (3-4, 3 R, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB) recorded his second straight three-hit night, while Bryant (3-4, 4 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB) also totaled three knocks and Andreoli (2-2, 4 R, 2 BB) reached base all five times he came to the plate. Bruno has now accrued hits in 12 of his last 21 at bats, while Andreoli extended his hit streak to 26, tying him with Jackson outfielder Jabari Blash for the best stretch in the Southern League this season.
Tennessee starter Dae-Eun Rhee (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R,1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) earned his third victory of the season after allowing a lone earned run on just three hits in seven frames. It was the best outing of the year for Rhee, who retired eight the final nine he faced and went seven in a start for the first time since August 19, 2013 against the Birmingham Barons at Regions Field. Birmingham starter Myles Jaye (5.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) suffered the defeat after relinquishing six runs (five earned) on five hits in five innings of work.
Smokies relievers Jeff Lorick (1.0 IP) and the newest Smokies pitcher Arodys Vizcaino (1.0 IP, 2 SO) fired the last two frames to continue a stellar run for the bullpen. In their last 11 contests, the Tennessee relief corps has combined to post a 1.40 ERA (8 ER in 51.1 IP) going back to April 26.
Tennessee and Birmingham are set to square off again Thursday evening, with first pitch set for 7:15 p.m. at Smokies Stadium. RHP Pierce Johnson (1-1, 3.86) is expected to take the hill for the Smokies, while the Barons are anticipated to give the nod to LHP Scott Snodgress (1-2, 5.46).