Foiled Again! Smokies Stop Stars from Winning Third Straight

(KODAK, Tenn.) - Mitch Atkins worked struck out eight in 7 solid innings while catcher Mark Reed drove in 3 runs to lead the Tennessee Smokies to a 10-4 record in the North division with a 6-4 win over the Huntsville Stars at Smokies Park, Tuesday night.

The Stars, who failed for the 6th time since mid-May to win three straight, falls to 7-7.

Alcides Escobar, who had three hits in Monday's game, led the Stars again with three hits, including two doubles, hiking his average to a season-high .330, 3rd best in the league. He also scored three times.

Escobar doubled to left, then with two out, stole third and scored on Reed's attempt to throw him out on a wild throw in the 1st, giving the Stars an early 1-0 lead.

Huntsville starter Brae Wright (6-7) retired the Smokies in order in the first two innings, but was reached in the 3rd on a pair of singles by Matt Matulia and Reed, a sacrifice bunt, an RBI single by Atkins, and a sacrifice fly, putting the Smokies on top, 2-1. Tennessee then took a commanding 5-1 lead in the 4th, sending the batting order to the plate.

With the bases loaded and one out, Reed singled through the infield to right to score a pair to give the Smokies a 4-1 lead. After Atkins reached on a fielder's choice, Sam Fuld beat out a ground ball to Mike Bell for a hit, scoring Reed for a 5-1 score. After Nate Spears singled to load the bases, Wright struck out Matt Craig swinging to end the inning.

The Stars crept back, putting across single runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings to get within a run, 5-4. Angel Salome singled in Escobar in the 6th, Bell hit a 2-out home run in the 7th (his 6th of the year), and off reliever Casey Lambert, Mat Gamel doubled in Escobar in the 8th. Gamel, who had two hits, stretched his hitting streak to 12 games, and has doubled in his last three games.

The Smokies finally added an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th off reliever Omar Aguilar on an infield single by Reed, scoring Doug Deeds. Deeds led off with an infield single to Bell, then was sacrificed to second.

Wright suffered his first loss on the road since May 3 and his 2nd loss in 8 starts.

Atkins (8-6) earned the win to tie Birmingham's Carlos Torres and the Stars' David Welch in league victories. He allowed eight hits.

Wednesday night, the Stars send right-hander Donovan Hand (0-2, 5.03) to the hill against Smokies' left-hander Donnie Veal (4-5, 3.22). Veal is 9th among Southern League ERA leaders.