Late Rally Falls Short as Barons Downed by Smokies
KODAK, Tenn. - Despite a late rally ignited by Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets, the Birmingham Barons (32-28, 59-70) dropped a 4-2 decision to the Tennessee Smokies (21-42, 54-78) on Sunday night at Smokies Stadium.
The loss eliminated the Barons from postseason contention. Birmingham has not reached the postseason since it won the Southern League title during the 2013 campaign.
The Barons struggled to get the bats going against Smokies starter Cory Abbott (W, 7-8) as the right-hander tossed seven shutout frames and allowed just three hits with six strikeouts. Abbott collected his seventh win of the season and third against Birmingham.
Tennessee took a 4-0 advantage into the eighth before the Barons tallied a pair of runs against Smokies reliever Michael Rucker. Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets delivered consecutive opposite-field RBI-singles to pull the Barons within a pair of runs, but Rucker struck out Damek Tomscha to end the threat with the bases loaded.
The Barons brought the potential tying run to the plate once again in the ninth after Alfredo Gonzalez drew a walk, but Smokies right-hander Craig Brooks induced a soft pop out from Laz Rivera to seal the game and earn his eighth save of the campaign.
Barons left-hander John Parke (L, 3-4) suffered his fourth loss of the season despite 5.1 effective innings of work. The 24-year-old southpaw surrendered three earned runs or fewer for the ninth consecutive start, but couldn't match Abbott's seven shutout innings.
Birmingham right-hander Luis Martinez struck out three across 2.2 scoreless innings of work out of the bullpen.
Sheets' pair of singles represented the lone multi-hit effort of the game for the Barons. The White Sox No. 13 prospect's run-scoring single in the ninth marked his league-leading 76th RBI of the season.
Birmingham and Tennessee will continue their five-game series Monday night as the Barons send right-hander Blake Battenfield (5-5, 4.41) to the mound against Smokies right-hander Erich Uelman (0-2, 7.08).
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT at Smokies Stadium and the game will be broadcast via WJOX-AM 690.
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