It was a topsy-turvey game with a controversial finish, but in the end the Smokies ended up on the wrong end of a 6-5 loss in ten innings to the Jacksonville Suns. The Smokies now trail the best-of-five series one game to none.
Starter Chris Carpenter got off to a terrible start in the bottom of the first inning, giving up a bases-loaded triple that put the Smokies down 3-0. After that he settled down and Carpenter went 4.1 innings, allowing the three runs on four hits. Carpenter walked four and struck out five.
But the Smokies struck back in the top of the second inning, scoring two runs on a double by catcher Welington Castillo. The Smokies would go on to tie the game in the fourth inning when first baseman Blake Lalli and right fielder Tyler Colvin led off the inning with back-to-back doubles.
The score would remain tied at three until the bottom of the eighth, when reliever David Cales allowed a run. A leadoff single ended up on third base with nobody out. after a stolen base and a bad throw by Castillo. A strikeout and a line out made it look like Cales might pitch out of the jam, but a two-out single put the Suns up 4-3.
The Smokies have been fighting back the whole post-season, and tonight was no different. In the top of the ninth, the Smokies tied the score when second baseman Jonathan Mota singled home third baseman Marquez Smith. However, the Smokies failed to take the lead later in the inning when Mota was thrown out trying to score from third on a fly ball to center field. Smokies manager Ryne Sandberg was ejected arguing the call.
Cales pitched 1.2 innings tonight. He gave up one run on two hits. He walked one and struck out two.
The game then went into extra-innings and the Smokies fortunes looked bright when Smith singled home center fielder James Adduci to give the Smokies a 5-4 lead. Unfortunately, left fielder Ty Wright was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the same play.
Looking to get his fourth save in as many games, Smokies closer Brian Schlitter struck out the first two batters he faced. But he then fell behind 3-1 to Suns catcher Brad Davis, who deposited the next pitch over the left-center field fence. Schlitter did not retire another batter, allowing singles to the next three batters and ending the game.
The third, game-winning, single was highly-controversial. The batter was initially called out at first base after hitting a slow-roller to third. But after an argument and the Suns manager asking the first base umpire to ask the home plate umpire for help, the call was overturned and first baseman Lalli was ruled to have been off the bag, allowing the winning run to score.
Marquez Smith was the big hitting star for the Smokies, going 3 for 5 with a double. He scored twice and had one RBI. Right fielder Tyler Colvin was 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored.
The Smokies will try to even the series tomorrow night as Jeremy Papelbon will take the mound against Suns pitcher Graham Taylor, who started at Wrigley against the Chicago Cubs on May 1st and who was almost traded to the Cubs for Jacque Jones two years ago.