by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Back for the finale of the Carolina Mudcats' short four-game homestand against the Tennessee Smokies, and the home team finally has a bit of momentum following Monday night's 8-1 whipping of the boys from Sevierville.
They're still in last place in the Southern League's North Division, but less than 20 percent of the second half has been played.
It's getaway day for Tennessee, and although it's going to be a hot one neither team is going to squeal about a noon start. The Smokies are home Wednesday against Montgomery, while Carolina will have the day off and leave for Thursday's contest at Jacksonville.
In an aside it's going to be a long day for me, as I'll be covering the Durham Bulls' home game with Gwinnett seven hours and five minutes after the start of this one. The trip is right at 50 miles.
Smokies manager Ryne Sandberg is in Game 2 of a three-game Southern League suspension for altercations with umpires.
And a particularly fun thing going on in the press areas is a "broadcaster camp" being conducted by Mudcats play-by-play guy Patrick Kinas, who also does play-by-play for N.C. State women's basketball among other duties (I too, now have several jobs.)
The campers are rotating some play-by-play stints on the internet broadcast, and some of them off-air are doing simulations in another box. That, of course, has the potential of ending up like the scene in "The Naked Gun" when Dick Vitale, Dick Enberg, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver, Dr. Joyce Brothers and the late Messrs. Curt Gowdy and Mel Allen all start commentating at once.
But about the game ... well, Carolina wins 6-0.
The Mudcats get to Jay Jackson for a run in the first, as Carson Kainer hits a one-out single to right, advances on Juan Francisco's infield single to second and later scores on a two-out balk.
And they double their lead in the third, when Juan Francisco launches a two-out, 1-2 offering just over the "Catfish Corner" fence at the 309 mark in right.
Carolina gets two more runs in the sixth by just standing there. Jackson walks Francisco, Zack Cozart and Logan Parker, and reliever Alex Maestri walks Eric Eymann with the bases loaded and plunks Korey Feiner with two down.
And the Mudcats add two in the eighth, with the big hits a Cozart RBI single and a Parker RBI double.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats skipper David Bell: "We talk about taking games one at a time, and I think it's important to keep that approach. But it was good to win these two and get going in the right direction."
Tabor: "I felt good, really good. I just need to keep the ball down in the zone. My cutter was pretty good. I've been working on it for the last week or two. And give credit where credit is due. The guys played good defense."
Francisco: "I hit a slider (for the home run). I've been feeling really good at the plate lately, working hard every day. I'm having a good season. Since we've won these two, the clubhouse is happy now."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats, who finished second by just one game in the first half, have a two-game winning streak going into the off-day.
Stars of the game
1. Tabor, for his shutout quality start .
2. Francisco, for his two-game home-run streak.
3. Parker, for his RBI double and two walks.
Play of the game
Mudcats lead 10-9.
Carolina: Won 2.
Tennessee: Lost 2.
LHP Jeremy Papelbon promoted to Iowa.
Montgomery at Tennessee, Wednesday, 7:15 p.m.
Jeremy Hellickson (right, 2-1, 2.45) vs. Marcos Mateo (right, 2-5, 4.43)
Carolina at Jacksonville, Thursday, 6:05 p.m. (DH)
Travis Wood (left, 8-3, 1.37) vs. TBA
TBA vs. TBA