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Trash Pandas muscle-up over Smokies in Friday night home game

MADISON – The Rocket City Trash Pandas continued to live up to their name by lifting four homeruns, all solo blasts, to defeat the Tennessee Smokies 5-3 Friday night in front of 6,656 fans at Toyota Field.  The dingers give Rocket City 106 for the season, which is the most in AA.  The win also moved the Trash Pandas’ record back to .500 at 34-34 as the Smokies stranded 10 men for the night.

The Smokies started the scoring in the first with a homer of their own as designated hitter Nelson Maldonado lifted a solo shot to left to put Tennessee on the board.

The Trash Pandas, however, would take the lead in the bottom of the second for good.  Third baseman Mitch Nay and rightfielder Izzy Wilson teamed up to become the league leaders in homeruns as each blasted his 16th four-bagger of the season to give Rocket City a 2-1 lead.  They went back-to-back to lead off the inning with Nay going to left to start the frame, and Wilson shooting his to right.  It was the fifth time this season the Trash Pandas have gone back-to-back.

Rocket City added two more runs in the fourth when designated hitter Ibandel Isabel rocketed his 12th homerun of the season.  It was another solo shot to right-center to make it 3-1.  After that, centerfielder Torii Hunter Jr. singled, stole second, then scored on an RBI single to center from catcher Michael Cruz.

Tennessee got a run back in the fifth.  Leftfielder Zach Davis led off the inning with a bunt single to first, stole second, then scored on a two out double to right-center from centerfielder Brennen Davis to pull the Smokies to within two.

However, the home team got the run back with another deep one as Isabel launched his second round-tripper of the night to left-center to make the count 5-2 Rocket City.  The Smokies would respond with another run in the seventh on a fielder’s choice grounder to short by Maldonado, which scored Zach Davis from third.  However, reliever Kolton Ingram followed by getting a fly out and strike out to finish the inning.

The Rocket City bullpen kept the Tennessee offense at bay as they stranded three Smokies baserunners over the final two innings for the win.  Getting the victory in his AA debut for Rocket City was starting pitcher Christopher Molina (1-0) who allowed two runs on three hits over five innings with five strikeouts.  The loss fell to Tennessee starter Luis Lugo (3-4) after he gave up two runs on three hits in 1.2 frames.  Closer Keith Rogalla notched his third save by pitching a scoreless ninth with a strikeout.

Both teams had only seven hits with each squad featuring one player with more than one base knock.  Isabel led the way for the Trash Pandas with two homers in four at-bats with two RBI and two runs scored.  Maldonado, meanwhile, went 2-5 for the Smokies with a dinger, two RBI, a run scored and a stolen base.

The Trash Pandas (34-34) will continue their six-game series against Tennessee (28-38) Saturday evening at Toyota Field.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CT.  The game can be heard on 103.9 FM THE UMP and SportsRadio 730 AM with Josh Caray on the call.

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