Sevierville, TN – After an impromptu exorcism behind home plate after a loss to the Mississippi Braves last night, the Tennessee Smokies righted the ship with a convincing 8-3 win in front of 4,516 energetic fans. The win improved the Smokies record to 17-32 on the season, and was the first win of the series against the Braves.
Several Smokies players stayed after the game last night to burn a few bats and batting gloves behind home plate for good luck in ending a four game skid. Whatever was done and said apparently worked, as the Smokies offense erupted for five runs in the first three innings of the game. Sam Fuld got things started with a leadoff double in the first, then came around to score on a Matt Craig RBI single for a 1-0 lead.
Tennessee struck again in the bottom of the second off Braves starter Tommy Hanson (1-2). Chris Robinson, who was 3-4 on the night, led off the inning with a single, and later scored thanks to an RBI single down the left field line by Fuld. The real damage was done in the third inning, however, as the Smokies plated three runs to take a 5-0 lead.
That would be all that Smokies starting pitcher James Russell (2-0) would need, as he was very effective on the mound tonight. Russell went five complete innings, yielding just one run on four hits and fanning six Braves batters. Robinson exacted more damage on the Braves in the bottom half of the seventh, when he delivered with a bases loaded two-RBI single to put the game away for the Smokies.
The Smokies bullpen took care of the rest of the game for Russell, with three pitchers combining to throw four innings, giving up just two runs on two hits and striking out five batters.
The Smokies will finish their series against Mississippi on Saturday night at 7:15 pm. The Smokies will send right-hander Mitch Atkins (2-4, 3.91) to the mound to face off against Braves right-hander Jerome Gamble (0-1, 3.28). Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz is also set to appear at Smokies Park at some point during the game in what promises to be a fantastic night of baseball in East Tennessee.