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Pitching, defense lead Trash Pandas to 6-3 win

MADISON – With a strong all-around performance on the mound, at the plate, and in the field, the Rocket City Trash Pandas defeated the Tennessee Smokies 6-3 in the third game of their six-game series on Thursday night at Toyota Field.

The Trash Pandas got off to a quick start as Ray-Patrick Didder walked and Brendon Davis singled to lead off the first. The pair executed a successful double steal to put the runners on second and third. Mitch Nay drove them both home with a clutch single to left to open the scoring. An Izzy Wilson single kept the inning going. Then an alert play on the bases plated another run. Tennessee starter Cam Sanders picked Wilson off first. While Wilson was in a rundown between first and second, Nay alertly came home to score before Wilson was tagged out to end the inning.

Tennessee scored a pair of runs in the third and put the tying run at third with one out. But Rocket City starter Jhonathan Diaz struck out Brennen Davis and induced a ground out from Chase Strumpf to end the inning with the lead still intact at 3-2.

From there, Diaz was dominant. In the fourth, he recorded a pair of strikeouts in a one, two, three inning. In the fifth, he worked around a single and a walk to record all three outs with swinging strikeouts to maintain the one-run edge.

Over 5.0 innings, Diaz (W, 3-1) gave up two earned runs on four hits with two walks while tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts to earn his third victory of the season and second in as many outings.

Reliever Ryan Clark got into and out of trouble in the sixth as a strikeout of Tim Susnara stranded the tying run on third base. Zach Davis reached with a one-out single in the seventh, stole second, and advanced to third when Michael Cruz’s throw went into center field. Cruz made up for his error shortly after by picking Davis off third for the second out of the inning. Clark ended his second scoreless inning with a ground out from Maldonado.

Rocket City expanded the lead in the eighth. Ibandel Isabel led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Torii Hunter Jr., and scored on a single from Cruz. Didder followed with his second home run of the season, a towering 435-foot blast to left for a 6-2 Trash Pandas lead.

Oliver Ortega allowed an unearned Tennessee run in the eighth before striking out the side in order in the ninth to finish the victory for the Trash Pandas.

Clark earned his first hold of the season for his solid relief work and Ortega recorded five strikeouts over 2.0 innings. The Trash Pandas pitching trio of Diaz, Clark, and Ortega combined to strike out 18 Smokies. Offensively, all nine Rocket City starters recorded at least one hit in the win while Nay and Didder each drove in two.

The Trash Pandas (33-34) continue their series with the Smokies (28-37) on Friday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is set for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be televised locally on WAAY-31.6, This TV.

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