by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It's Game 3 of the Carolina Mudcats' five-game homestand against a hot Tennessee Smokies club, and if for nothing more than to lift the mood in the clubhouse the home team needs a victory.
Tennessee has been holding up its end of the deal recently in its three-way battle with in-state rivals West Tenn and Chattanooga, while the Mudcats - who come into the game with a "tragic number" of four with nearly two weeks left in the season - are going to have to get it going to finish fourth in the Southern League's North Division.
The Mudcats do have one of their marquee players back in Yonder Alonzo (pictured), who is back from Sarasota after going on the disabled list back on June 18 with a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
Tennessee's Jeremy Papelbon, who pitched on Sunday, is having a good day as he has been named the SL's pitcher of the week.
It looks like the weather is going to be good for this one, so after watching Smokies skipper Ryne Sandberg sign a long line of autographs let's get a cheeseburger and play ball.
This one gets ugly early, and ends up with the Smokies winning 16-9. Trust me, Monday's contest was a good one to miss.
Tennessee scores two in the first off Jerry Gil when Ty Wright followed Jim Adduci's one-out walk by blasting a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall just to the left of the scoreboard.
Carolina responds with a big crooked number in the bottom of the frame off Andrew Cashner. The Mudcats send nine to the plate, with the first five scoring. The highlight of the inning is an RBI double to right from Zack Cozart.
But the Smokies' second wipes away the Mudcats' rally and then some. Tennessee scores eight runs on five hits, including Tony Thomas' leadoff homer and a two-run double from Welington Castillo.
Tennessee leads 14-5 before the Mudcats' four-run sixth, in which Logan Parker blasts a one-out 2-0 fastball high off the signs above the scoreboard in right for a two-run homer.
Watch out, Team USA?
Two Mudcats will be pitching in the World Cup in a couple of weeks, with big southpaw Alexander Smit going for The Netherlands and lefty reliever Phillippe Valiquette for Canada. The Canadians will play the USA in a four-game preliminary set Sept. 3-6 at Coleman Field in Cary.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats manager David Bell: "You stayed for all of that? A game like that isn't fun. Close games are different. At least we battled back."
Alonzo: "I feel really good right now. I was just trying to do too much in my first couple of at-bats. I played two games in the GCL, and then two in Sarasota before I came back. I feel like I'm ready."
Parker: "(The homer) felt good. I got a hitters' count and got a good swing on the ball. I don't think it was a 'mistake' pitch. He was just behind and trying to throw a strike."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats' tragic number is two, meaning they could be mathematically eliminated if Tennessee wins Tuesday.Tennessee and West Tenn are tied atop the division standings.
Stars of the game
1. Tennessee's Tyler Colvin, with four hits including a double and an RBI.
2. Cozart, for three hits including a pair of doubles and an RBI.
3. Winning pitcher Dustin Sasser, with a pair of scoreless innings.
Play of the game
Lalli's two-run single in the second.
Tennessee leads 17-11.
Carolina: Lost 4.
Tennessee: Won 3.
Carolina: IF Yonder Alonzo promoted from Sarasota. IF Jake Kahaulelio placed on seven-day DL.
Tennessee at Carolina, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.
Hung-Wen Chen (R, 7-9, 4.62) vs. Camilo Vazquez (L, 4-4, 5.33)