FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats return home for the opener of a five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies that will comprise the entire homestand.

It’s bordering on time for the end-of-season “death watch” for the Mudcats, as their tragic number for elimination from playoff contention is down to seven with 15 games left in the season. Carolina would just about have to run the table and get help from at least three teams.

The Cincinnati Reds’ organization is acutely aware of the situation, so any Mudcat who deserves promotion to Triple-A is headed for Louisville to help the Bats try to win a Governors’ Cup. Todd Frazier (pictured) is the latest to make the jump, making the number 11 of current Bats players I have covered as a home beat writer at some point.

The Bats really may have about 1/3 of this season’s Southern League post-season all-star team on their roster, since they already had SL home-run leader Juan Francisco, the SL’s best pitcher in Travis Wood and perhaps the SL’s best player in Chris Heisey in the clubhouse. If you think I don’t want Louisville to visit Durham in the playoffs this season, try again.

Anyway, it’s dark and rainy all the way over here from Brier Creek, but the game starts a reasonable 23 minutes late.

Grab an Italian sausage and let’s go.

Tennessee, which eventually wins this one 5-4, takes the early lead with a two-run second inning off Luis Montano. Tyler Colvin leads off with a double to left, moving to third on Ty Wright’s sacrifice bunt to third. Tony Thomas scores Colvin on a two-out double off the wall in left, followed by pitcher Chris Carpenter’s RBI double to right.

Carolina goes ahead with a three-run rally in the fourth.

Jose Castro leads off with a single to left, and after a Shaun Cumberland single to left and a walk to Zack Cozart the bases are literally full of “Cs.” With one out, Logan Parker hits a two-run single to right, and then Carson Kainer puts the home team ahead with another single to right.

Tennessee takes the lead again with a two-out rally in the sixth. Wright doubles to left, followed by Welington Castillo’s RBI single to left. Thomas then smacks an RBI single to left.

The Mudcats tie it in the bottom, as Cozart walks, steals second, advances on Alex Maestri’s wild pitch and scores on Kainer’s one-out sac fly to center.

But Tennessee takes the lead again in the seventh, as Jim Adduci reaches on a fielder’s choice following Jonathan Mota’s single, followed by Starlin Castro’s RBI double to right for the game-winning run.

Here’s what they said …

Mudcats manager David Bell: “Montano was good. In several of his outings he’s struggled for the first couple of innings and then settled down and gotten the job done. It was a good game, but we just didn’t win. There should always be enough motivation to go out and try to win every game, no matter what the standings say.”

Parker: “When you’re in this position (in the standings), you just have to forget about how the team’s doing and motivate yourself every day. We had a great team in the first half and didn’t make the playoffs because we lost the last series to Tennessee. That’s something we need to be thinking about when we play them.”

Cozart: “It’s always important to finish the season strong, even if the team hasn’t been winning. And if you go out and play a good game yourself, that’s going to give the team a better chance to win.”

What does it all mean?

That the tragic number is now five, while Tennessee is a game behind West Tenn for the division lead.

Stars of the game

1. Thomas, with three hits including a double for two RBI.

2. Parker, for two hits and two RBI.

3. Carpenter, for a respectable start and a clutch hit.

Play of the game

Starlin Castro’s game-winning double.

Season series

Tennessee leads 15-11.


Carolina: Lost 2.

Tennessee: Won 1.


Carolina: Outfielder Todd Frazier promoted to Louisville. Infielder Kristopher Negron promoted to Carolina from Sarasota.

Tennessee: none.

On deck

Tennessee at Carolina, Sunday, 2 p.m.

Jeremy Papelbon (L, 4-5, 3.26) vs. Tom Cochran (L, 4-5, 3.29)