2-for-2: Smokies clinch second half title

KODAK, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- The Tennessee Smokies made an already unforgettable weekend all the more memorable. Even in a 16-1 series-ending loss to the Birmingham Barons Sunday at Smokies Park, the Smokies clinched the Southern League North Division’s second-half title as second-place Huntsville fell in Game 1 of a doubleheader with Mobile.

The second-half title ensures the Smokies will host Games 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the Southern League North Division Series, either against the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx or Huntsville Stars. Games 1 and 2 will be on September 9 and 10 and if necessary, Games 4 and 5 will be on September 12 and 13. Start times for all four games will be at 7:15 p.m.

The 3,901 fans that came out Sunday for Fan Appreciation Night were part of the 262,415 that witnessed Tennessee’s title sweep first-hand in 2010 at Smokies Park. The year-end regular-season total is the third largest in the team’s history.

Tennessee kept things close early as Russ Canzler hit his Southern League-tying 21st home run of the year in the second to even the game at one.

Still only 2-1 Birmingham heading into the fifth, the Barons erupted for seven runs in the fifth off both starter Ty’Relle Harris and reliever Esmailin Caridad to open up a 9-1 lead. Tyler Kuhn’s three-run home run off Harris was the first blow of the frame for the Smokies, while Cole Armstrong’s grand slam off Caridad blew the game wide open.

In the sixth, the Barons put up another seven runs off Tennessee relievers Jeremy Papelbon and Aaron Shafer to go up 16-1. Kuhn and Armstrong combined for three more RBIs in the frame; on the night the duo went 6-for-9 with 10 RBIs.

It was a forgettable night all around for the Smokies pitching staff. Harris (1-1) would take the loss, allowing seven runs on nine hits and striking out three. Relievers James Leverton and Marco Carrillo were bright spots in the bullpen, holding the Barons scoreless over the final two frames.

After a travel day, the Smokies head to Jacksonville for a three-game series against the defending Southern League-champion Suns. Tennessee will conclude it’s regular season on the road in Carolina September 3-7 before the SLDS begins. First-round playoff tickets for all four games at Smokies Park can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.

Courtesy: Smokies baseball

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