The Tennessee Smokies won their playoff series against the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx! They are set to begin the Southern League Finals! Two members of the Tennessee press box receive awards for their fine work. Two Cubs farmhands are named to the roster of Team USA for the Pan American Games. Four guys are added to the Smokies roster before postseason play begins.
All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report!
The Double-A Tennessee Smokies announced a slew of roster moves on Thursday prior to the start of their playoff opener against West Tennessee in the Southern League semifinal series. Right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and lefty Luke Sommer all rejoined the team. Those guys were playing at Triple-A Iowa, but since the I-Cubs missed the playoffs they were assigned to help with the Smokies run.
Infielder D.J. LeMahieu was promoted after hitting .314 this year at Class-A Daytona. LeMahieu’s first taste of Double-A baseball comes in the postseason. In order to make room for these additions, RHP Alberto Cabrera, INF David Macias, RHP Corey Martin, and catcher Mark Reed were all removed from the Tennessee roster.
Game 1: West Tenn 8, Smokies 3
The Smokies were crushed in the playoff opener by the Seattle Mariners’ Double-A club. The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, a former Cubs affiliate, scored four times in the eighth inning on their way to an 8-3 victory on Thursday night at Smokies Park. Dependable righty Chris Archer picked a bad time for his worst start of the season. He was charged with all eight Diamond Jaxx runs and lasted just three innings.
Tennessee did all of its scoring in the bottom half of the fourth to cut the lead to five. Blake Lalli singled to start the frame, which set the stage for Russ Canzler’s two-run homer. There were four more hits in the inning by Matt Spencer (run scored), Tony Thomas, Marwin Gonzalez, and Tony Campana (RBI) to produce one more tally.
The bullpen did a nice job of keeping West Tenn in check after Archer’s early exit. Kyle Smit went three scoreless frames, Ryan Butcher allowed only one hit in two innings, and Aaron Shafer sent down all three men he faced.
Tony Thomas had the biggest day offensively, lashing three singles in four trips to the plate. Blake Lalli went 2-for-3 and Tony Campana reached base three times via two hits and two walks. The longball by Canzler was the only extra-base hit of the night by the Smokies.
Brett Jackson looked particularly baffled by the opposing pitchers. He went 0-for-5 with one strikeout. Steve Clevenger (0-for-3) was the only other hitless Smokies starter. D.J. LeMahieu made his Double-A debut pinch hitting for DH Matt Spencer in the eighth. He struck out swinging. Click for full box score.
Game 2: Smokies 11, West Tenn 1
Tennessee bounced right back to even the series with an 11-1 blowout win in front of their home crowd of over 4,000 on Friday. The Smokies grabbed the lead with single tallies in the third and fourth innings. In the third, Brett Jackson made up for his meager performance in game one by drilling a solo-homer over the right field wall. Robinson Chirinos doubled in the fourth and then scored the game’s second run on a Russ Canzler single moments later.
In the top of the fifth the Diamond Jaxx got on the board against starter Chris Carpenter to make it a 2-1 game. Carpenter went six innings and allowed just the one run on four hits. He was the winning pitcher.
The Smokies widened the gap with a three-run sixth inning. Robinson Chirinos led-off the prosperous frame with a home run to right field. Later in the inning, Tony Thomas launched a 2-run bomb to the seats against a new West Tenn hurler. Tennessee started to pull away with a pair in the seventh and then broke the game open with four more in the eighth. Thomas and Marwin Gonzalez picked up RBI singles in the seventh, and a Matt Spencer three-run homer was the big blow in the eighth.
Bill Dancy’s bullpen looked sharp for the second straight night. Luke Sommer (1.1 IP, 1 H), Esmailin Caridad (0.2 IP, 1 H), and Blake Parker (1 IP, 0 H) combined for three shutout frames. The Smokies pounded out 16 hits, including four from Russ Canzler, three from Tony Thomas, and three from Robinson Chirinos. Click for full box score.
Game 3: Smokies 9, West Tenn 2
The Tennessee offensive continued to pour it on in a 9-2 explosion to snatch the series lead on Saturday night. Game three was the only one of the series at Pringles Park, and the Smokies proved that they had no trouble on the road.
Tony Campana provided a spark right away by legging out an inside-the-park home run to leadoff the game. Campana showed off his speed and “gamer” mentality again in the second inning, when he laid down a bunt single that drove in a run to make it a 3-0 game.
The Jaxx got a run back on a Trey McNutt wild pitch in the bottom of the second. The Smokies put up a three spot in the fourth to make it 5-1. Tony Campana (4-for-6) dropped down another bunt single to load the bases with nobody out! He later stole second base and eventually scored on a two-run single by Blake Lalli. Brandon Guyer drove in Tony Thomas on a sac fly for the other run of the inning.
Back-to-back jacks by Russ Canzler and Matt Spencer in the sixth turned the game into a 9-1 rout. It was the second homer of the postseason for both men. Steve Clevenger, who had walked, was along for the ride on the Canzler bomb.
Trey McNutt fanned six and surrendered only one run in five innings to get the win. Marco Carrillo took care of the middle innings allowing only one hit in three shutout frames. The Diamond Jaxx finally scored against the Tennessee bullpen for the first time in the series when James Leverton allowed a run in the ninth. Click for full box score.
Game 4: Smokies 5, West Tenn 2
The closest game in the Southern League North Championship Series was the final game in the set. The Smokies won 5-2 on Sunday night! They took three of four in the series against the Diamond Jaxx and advanced to the Southern League Championship Series!
West Tennessee took the early lead in the second against Craig Muschko, but it didn’t take the Smokies long to respond. They went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the inning when Brett Jackson doubled to set up RBI singles from Blake Lalli and Matt Spencer.
In the fifth inning, the Jaxx tied the game, but once again the Smokies one-upped them in the bottom of the frame. Matt Spencer singled and then jogged around the bases on a Steve Clevenger two-run homer. Guillermo Quiroz launched a solo shot to provide the West Tenn run.
Clevenger was at the center of the action again the next time Tennessee scored. He singled to start the bottom of the eighth, moved to second on a Tony Thomas sac bunt, and then scored on a Marwin Gonzalez base hit up the middle. The run made it a 5-2 game and gave the Smokies some breathing room going to the top of the ninth.
Luke Sommer, who got the final two outs of the eighth inning, stayed on to try to send Tennessee to the Southern League Championship. He got the first batter to ground out, the second one popped out, and then Johan Limonta hit a ground ball to short to end the game! Sommer got his biggest save of the season and the Smokies celebration commenced.
Craig Muschko got the win, allowing two runs on six hits in six strong innings. It was his first start of the postseason. Kyle Smith went 1.1 scoreless innings before Sommer relieved him with one down in the eighth. Brett Jackson went 3-for-5 with three doubles and Matt Spencer went 3-for-4, but it was Steve Clevenger that made the difference in the game. Click for full box score.
The Jacksonville Suns beat the Mobile Bay Bears tonight 8-3 in the other Southern League semifinal series to take the South Championship three games to one. The Suns will meet the Smokies this week in a rematch of the 2009 Finals, which Jacksonville won in four games.
Tennessee Media Members Honored
On Wednesday night the Southern League named Smokies beat writer Nick Gates their Sportswriter of the Year. Gates has been covering the team for the Knoxville News Sentential for 38 seasons. He missed the end of this season due to some health conditions.
Mick Gillispie, in his fourth year as the Smokies radio play-by-play announcer, received the Southern League Radio Broadcaster of the Year Award. Gillispie, also the voice of University of Alabama baseball, was at the mike for two Cubs Cactus League Spring Training games on MLB.com. You can hear his broadcasts through the rest of the playoffs on smokiesbaseball.com.
Pan American Games
Right-handed pitcher Chris Archer and outfielder Brett Jackson have both been named to the roster of Team USA for the 2010 Pan American Games qualifying tournament. The qualifying tourney is scheduled for October 1-10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Former Cubs slugger Leon Durham will serve as the hitting coach for Team USA. The top eight teams advance to the 2011 Pan American Games, which will be held next October.
Down on the Farm Notes
Later in the week I’ll have another Down on the Farm Report updating the Smokies/Suns series! In the mean time, follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates for reports on the games! As always, feel free to email me at [email protected].