FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s Game 2 of the Carolina Mudcats’ five-game home set with the Tennessee Smokies, and we’re getting started early.

Mudcats outfielder Sean Henry
  • Photo by Nikolaus © 2010 Carolina Mudcats
  • Mudcats outfielder Sean Henry

“Education day” games are at 11 a.m. Popular with the kids, anyway, since they get a day out of school. The weather is mostly sunny and inching toward warm.

Carolina has dropped to third place in the Southern League’s North Division, three games behind the Smokies, and needs a win to get some momentum in the divisional race.

Dallas Buck takes the mound for Carolina while Chris Carpenter goes for the visiting Chicago Cubs’ affiliate. Carpenter has had a sore arm and is supposed to go for two innings before Jeremy Papelbon follows.

The Smokies score a lot early, and then hold on for dear life over the last three innings for a 6-5 win.

Buck gets off to a shaky start, as Tony Campana leads off with a triple to the right-field corner and Starlin Castro follows by blasting a 1-2 offering off the scoreboard in left for a 2-0 lead.

Tennessee makes it 3-0 in the second, as Brandon Guyer doubles to left and scores on Jake Opitz’ one-out fly ball to right.

The Mudcats respond in the bottom of the frame. Denis Phipps walks and steals second, advances on Eric Eymann’s infield hit to the left side and scores on Michael Griffin’s fielder’s-choice ball to second.

But Tennessee stretches it to 4-1 in the third, as Ty Wright hits a two-out double to left and scores on Blake Lalli’s single to right.

Carpenter is efficient enough to alter the plan and get three innings.

Buck’s troubles continue into the fifth, which turns out to be his last inning. With one out Campana singles to left, followed by a double to left from Castro. Buck then tries a pickoff at third, but a wild throw allows both runners to score and make it 6-1.

The Mudcats fight back in the sixth in a big way. With one out, Jake Kahaulelio doubles to left and scores on Luis Terrero’s double to right. Sean Henry follows by blasting a 2-2 offering high off the scoreboard in left. Phipps doubles to the left-field corner, and Griffin’s two-out double to right makes it 6-5.

Carolina gets a chance against Jake Muyco in the ninth, but doesn’t hit the ball in the right place. Griffin hits a one-out single to right, followed by another single to right from Chris Denove. Pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso then singles to right, but Guyer guns down Griffin at the plate for the second out and the threat goes for naught.

Marco Carillo is awarded the win for two solid relief innings for Tennessee, which gets eight hits to the Mudcats’ 12.

Griffin finishes with two hits and two RBI, while Kahaulelio adds a double and a single. Daryl Harang has two perfect relief innings for the Mudcats, while Jerry Gil also has two shutout frames.

They said it …

Mudcats manager David Bell: “We battled back and put ourselves in position to win the game. We kept swinging the bat and that’s all you can do. With one out I probably should have held (Griffin) — that was probably a little aggressive as it turned out. The bullpen was good. Jerry Gill continues to throw the ball well and Harang has been good every time out. There were a lot of good things. We’re playing a good team over there, but a lot of good things happened.”

Henry: “I got hold of a curve ball pretty well. We keep coming back. We just need to finish games. We didn’t have too much luck there at the end with (Guyer’s) good throw. Just tip your hat to them and come back next time.”

Harang: “I was able to keep them off-balance. (Matt) Klinker did a good job keeping them off-balance yesterday. They proved they can hit the fastball, especially up in the zone. That’s an aggressive team. You hope to have something working other than your fastball so you can keep a team like that off-balance. We’ve shown we’re not going to just give up, and that’s good to see out of a team.”

What does it all mean?

That the Mudcats need to get some wins in this series or start worrying about losing contact in the pennant race.

Stars of the game
1. Starlin Castro.
2. Carillo.
3. Griffin.

Play of the game
Guyer’s gunning down of Griffin at the plate to preserve Tennessee’s one-run advantage.

Season series
Tennessee leads 2-0.

Carolina: Lost 2.
Tennessee: Won 4.

Carolina: none.
Tennessee: none.

On deck
Tennessee at Mudcats, 7:15 p.m.

Austen Bibens-Dirkxs (R, 0-1, 7.50) vs. Tom Cochran (L, 2-0, 0.75)