Generals Sneak by Smokies in Opener, 3-2
Jackson, Tenn. - The Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, picked up an unlikely victory on Sunday evening, beating the Tennessee Smokies 3-2 at The Ballpark at Jackson to open their five-game series. The Generals (70-53) reached the 70-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season, tying the season series with Tennessee (51-74) at eight games apiece.
Offensively, all three of the Generals' runs came in the third inning against Tennessee's Jake Stinnett (1-6, 5.61 ERA). A single by L.T. Tolbert and a walk by Camden Duzenack put two men on, and Generals pitcher Kevin McCanna then bunted to move Tolbert up to third base, and McCanna reached base on a fielder's choice that forced out Duzenack. With men on the corners and one out, former Smokie Jeffrey Baez threaded a double down the left field line past third base, scoring Tolbert for a 1-0 lead while bumping McCanna up to third base. Daulton Varsho then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, and McCanna raced home for a 2-0 lead while Baez advanced to third. Stinnett would throw a wild pitch during Pavin Smith's at-bat that allowed Baez to score for a 3-0 Jackson advantage. The Generals finished with just three hits, compared to Tennessee's 11.
With scheduled starter Bo Takahashi scratched earlier in the day for his first MLB call-up, the Generals rolled out of the garage with the right-handed McCanna on the hill, making his eighth start and first since late June. McCanna ran the first four laps of the race without giving up a run, holding the Smokies to five hits while walking one man and striking out three. McCanna stranded five runners over those first four frames, using 50 pitches to keep Tennessee in check. Sam Lewis followed McCanna's lead by stranding a man in a scoreless fifth inning, but Lewis bobbled the sixth inning, allowing Tennessee to score twice on a pair of RBI singles. Nonetheless, Lewis struck out top Chicago Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner with two men in scoring position to end the inning, passing the torch to Matt Brill (2-4, 6.21 ERA) while holding on to the Generals' 3-2 lead.
The 24-year-old Brill has slowly pedaled his earned run average down from 12.75 in early June, and Sunday's performance was his best yet in a Generals uniform. Brill struck out the side in a dominant seventh inning and retired the Smokies in order in the eighth, finishing with his fourth strikeout to register a season high in that category. Since June 12, Brill is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA over 17.0 innings in 19 appearances, holding team-best marks in WHIP (0.82) and opponent batting average (.140) in that span.
Southpaw Miguel Aguilar (S, 5) took command in the ninth inning, and the Smokies made him sweat. Aguilar allowed a pair of singles to start the inning, but after a strikeout of Hoerner, the Smokies tried a double-steal with Zack Short at the plate. Catcher Daulton Varsho threw a dart to Ramon Hernandez at third base, nailing lead runner Connor Myers to get the inning's second out. Aguilar then walked Short to once again put the winning run on base. Vimael Machin would hit a grounder toward the right side that looked like it might sneak into the outfield and tie the game, but Duzenack made a sliding glove-side play in the shallow outfield grass, spinning and firing from his backside to put Machin away at first base and end the contest.
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Jackson Generals pitcher Matt Brill
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