The Round Rock Express came out victorious 7-6 over the Nashville Sounds in front of 11,144 fans at First Tennessee Park Saturday night. The crowd broke the ballpark’s single-season attendance record previously set in 2015.
The Express scored a run in each of the final two innings of the back-and-forth contest to secure the victory and even up the all-time series between the two ball clubs at 104 games apiece.
Nashville applied the pressure in the bottom of the ninth inning by sending the game-winning run to the plate but was unable to cash in. Trailing 7-5 with one out in the frame, Yairo Munoz laced a double into the gap in right center field. Two batters later he came around to score on Josh Phegley’s third run-scoring hit of the night. That was as close as the Sounds would come, however, as R.J. Alvarez caught Franklin Barreto looking at a third strike on an inside breaking ball to end the ball game.
Round Rock plated a pair of runs in the second inning as the middle of the lineup ambushed Sounds starter Chris Jensen. Will Middlebrooks and Jared Hoying each tagged the righty with line drive singles, then A.J. Jimenez scorched a ground rule double to straight away center field. The Express scored their second run of the game on a ground out by Brett Hayes.
Phegley, on a rehab assignment from Oakland made his presence felt with one swing of the bat. The catcher crushed a towering drive beyond the left field porch in the third inning to cut the Round Rock lead in half. Nashville took the lead in the next inning with a pair of runs. Joey Wendle started the frame by lacing a base hit to right field and came into score on a ground out by Matt McBride. The next batter, Munoz, put the Sounds on top by ripping a base hit to right field.
Two innings later the Express responded by posting a three spot on the board. The first three batters to face Jensen in the frame reached with base hits including a run-scoring single from Ronald Guzman before Felix Doubront was called upon to try and squash the threat. The first batter he faced, Preston Beck, poked a dribbler through the right side of the infield to drive in the second run of the inning. Two batters later Doubront spiked a pitch into the ground that bounced way from Phegley and allowed Brett Hayes to scamper home from third base.
Nashville’s Chris Carter flexed his muscles with a solo blast to left field to trim the deficit to 5-4 in the sixth inning. Phegley teamed up with fellow rehabber, Jake Smolinski to light up the scoreboard in the seventh to tie the game. Smolinski started the brief two-out flurry with a slow roller back up the middle followed by a scorching double into the alley in left center field from Phegley to score Smolinski all the way from first base.
Round Rock took the lead in the eighth inning as Will Middlebrooks grounded into a force out that plated the go-ahead run. His routine ground ball was bobbled by Nunez who had to settle for the force out at second base rather than the inning-ending double play. The Express added an all-important insurance run in the ninth inning when Beck ripped a run-scoring single to right field.
The Sounds’ ninth inning rally fell short, snapping their winning streak at three games. Phegley paced the offense with a three-hit, three-RBI night.
The finale of the four-game series is scheduled for Sunday night at First Tennessee Park. Right-hander Ben Bracewell (4-2, 5.51) starts for the Sounds against right-hander Anthony Bass (3-3, 3.88) for the Express. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.