Double-A Pitching Getting It Done

Ryne Sandberg knows that his team's pitching staff is what's keeping the Tennessee Smokies in games. Through the team's first 29 contests, Tennessee had a combined 3.58 ERA – good for third best in the Southern League. Over their last 10 games, the Smokies' staff had combined for a 2.49 ERA.

One night after right-hander Casey Coleman tossed six scoreless innings, Tennessee received another impressive pitching performance Wednesday in a 3-2 victory over West Tennessee at Smokies Park.

Right-hander Jay Jackson started and scattered two runs and five hits over six innings. He struck out five batters and walked two in a no-decision.

The Smokies used a two-run double from Jim Adduci in the second inning to grab a 2-0 lead. Tennessee was kept scoreless until the eighth inning when, with the scored tied 2-2, Adduci pushed the eventual winning run across with an RBI bunt single to third, scoring Darwin Barney.

"We need to tune up the bats a little bit and (Wednesday) we had to be a little bit creative there with Adduci bunting for a base hit," Sandberg said.

Making his sixth start, Jackson continued to show signs of putting it together in his first Double-A season. Since opening the season with a 9.45 ERA in his first three starts, the Cubs' ninth-round pick in the 2008 draft has scattered three runs over his last three outings – including two seven-inning starts.

"Jackson gave us a nice quality start," said Sandberg. "He's been racking up quality starts now. Not quite his best command, but still his stuff was good. Once again, pitching is kind of a highlight; kind of a mainstay right now for us."

Jackson agreed he didn't have his best stuff Wednesday, but battled through it and kept his team in the game. He gave up two third-inning runs, but settled down to toss three scoreless frames before exiting.

"I struggled a little bit getting first-pitch strikes," Jackson said. "After that, I kind of battled through it a little bit because I didn't feel like I had my best stuff. But I battled and got the job done. It was just locating fastballs and when I was doing that, I was getting (outs).

"I didn't have my slider working much (Wednesday). None of my stuff really felt great. My fastball didn't feel as sharp, my slider didn't feel as sharp. Nothing really felt sharp, so it was just about competing and keeping my team in the ballgame."

Jackson lowered his ERA to a season-best 4.59 through 33 1/3 innings. He is joined in a rotation that features Coleman, the team leader in wins (three) and a 3.00 ERA in six starts; left-hander Casey Lambert, a first-year starter who has posted a 2.92 ERA through five starts; Taiwan native Hung-Wen Chen (2-2, 4.85 ERA); and right-hander Marcos Mateo, who has a 1.62 ERA between Class High-A Daytona and Tennessee in 22 1/3 innings combined, and a 2.70 mark through three starts at Double-A.

The Smokies' bullpen held up its end of the bargain Wednesday by tossing three scoreless innings of one-hit ball.

Right-hander David Cales tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 0.56 in 13 games spanning 16 1/3 innings between Tennessee and Daytona.

Right-hander Brian Schlitter worked a scoreless ninth inning for his fourth save in as many chances and hasn't allowed a run over his last five outings for a 3.38 ERA in 12 appearances spanning 13 1/3 innings.

And left-hander John Gaub (1-0) continues to impress as a left-handed specialist in the bullpen. He faced three batters in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday and recorded two strikeouts en route to his first win. He's allowed two earned runs in 10-plus innings for a 1.74 ERA in nine relief appearances.

"Gaub has been pretty tough out of the ‘pen, especially against left-handed hitters, so he came in there in a tight situation and got a couple of hitters," Sandberg said.

As a whole, Tennessee pitchers for the year have allowed the second fewest number of hits in the Southern League (258 through 256 2/3 innings).

"We know as a team, with the way the pitching is going, we have a chance," Sandberg said. correspondent Josh Dorsey in Sevierville contributed to this report.

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