Tennessee right-hander C.J. Edwards allowed a lone earned run in 5.2 innings, while catcher Rafael Lopez came through in the clutch with a two-out two-run double in the sixth to propel the Smokies to a 3-1 home opener victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts in front of 4,899 fans on Wednesday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The series opening win improves Tennessee's record to 2-4 on the year and snaps a three-game losing skid, while the defeat drops Chattanooga to a similar 2-4 mark in 2014.
Edwards and Lookouts' starter Carlos Frias matched each other until the fourth, when Chattanooga opened the scoring by taking advantage of a leadoff base knock. Darnell Sweeney began the frame with a single to right, moved to second on a groundout and then third on a wild pitch, before coming home when Scott Schebler reached on a fielder's choice by beating out a potential double play to extend the inning.
The right-hander also ran into trouble in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs before yielding to reliever P.J. Francescon, who shut the door to preserve what was then a one-run deficit. Schebler reached on his second fielder's choice of the contest before Ozzie Martinez singled and Noel Cuevas walked to load the bases for Frias, who was sent down by Francescon on a groundout to second.
Lopez would then deliver the clutch two-run double in the subsequent frame to right to push Tennessee ahead. Kris Bryant started the two-out rally with a single to center, while 1B Dustin Geiger reached base on a fielding error to set the stage for Lopez. After roping his go-ahead two-bagger, Lopez would go on to score on the play when an errant throw sailed into left, allowing the backstop to score from second.
Francescon (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 SO) earned the victory to improve to 2-0 on the year, while relievers Jeff Lorick (0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 SO) and Armando Rivero (1.1 IP, 3 SO) silenced the Lookouts hitters through the final two innings. Edwards (5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO) did not factor in the decision despite allowing the lone earned run on five hits, in addition to five strikeouts, while Frias (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) suffered the loss to fall to 0-1.
The two teams will play the second tilt of their five-game set Thursday at 11:30 a.m.