by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats continue their homestand tonight, but this time against a new opponent.
Tennessee leads the Mudcats by two games in the Southern League’s North Division coming into the contest. Bill Dancy’s Smokies have a couple of in-state products on the team in first baseman Blake Lalli out of Gardner-Webb and pitcher Dustin Sasser from East Carolina.
Matt Klinker will take the mound tonight for Carolina against hard-throwing Andrew Cashner, and they’ll both be coming to the plate tonight as we play National League baseball.
It’s a pitchers’ duel throughout, with the Smokies eking out a 2-1 win.
The Mudcats get a marker against Cashner early. Kris Negron hits an infield single to the left side, advances on a Jake Kahaulelio grounder, steals third and continues home on catcher Robinson Chirinos’ throwing error.
Klinker keeps the Smokies under control until the sixth. With one out, Tony Campana singles to center and steals second, followed by Starlin Castro’s single to left center. Ty Wright brings him home on a fielder’s-choice ball to third and it’s 1-1.
Tennessee gets something going against Jordan Smith in the ninth. Brandon Guyer leads off with a single to left and steals second, scoring on Jake Opitz’ one-out single to left.
Both starters go seven innings. Klinker allows a run on five hits with three strikeouts against a walk, while Cashner allows the unearned run on two hits with five strikeouts and two hits.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Klinker was good as you can be. He did a great job and gave us a chance to win the game. Tennessee’s a good team. They were at the end of last year. They’ve got some really good players back and some prospects that make them better. Cashner was just overpowering. He’s the best we’ve seen so far this season and the best I’ve seen in the past two years here.”
Klinker: “I had a great outing. My first two starts and a lot of my starts Chris Denove caught me, (Brandon) Yarbrough and I weren’t on the same page at first, but after about an inning and a half it worked out for seven and he did a great job back there. Jake Kahaulelio at third was strong for us all night. It was a good game. We just ran into a buzzsaw with Cashner.”
Negron: “(Cashner) is a good pitcher. Give him credit. We had some good ABs and put ourselves in position to win the game. We played a good game and Klinker pitched real well. Next time we’ll get more runs. We’ve just got to come back and get them tomorrow.”
What does it all mean?
That both ace pitchers are pretty tough, and that the Mudcats need to get some momentum in the rest of this series.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Opitz’ game-winning single.
Tennessee leads 1-0.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Tennessee: Won 3.
Tennessee at Mudcats, 11 a.m.
Jeremy Papelbon (L, 0-0, 4.32) vs. Dallas Buck (R, 1-1, 8.31)