Jose Barrero is known for his bat, but he showed his glove was just as good in a great play during the fifth inning of the Lookouts 1-0 win against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. On a difficult ground ball, he slid to one side, scooped up the grounder, tapped on second, and jumped to avoid the sliding runner while rifling a throw to first. In what was a scoreless game, web gems like that were crucial to keeping the score deadlocked until Chuckie Robinson sent a ball into orbit later in the game.
Baseball may be a team game, but there are few things fans find more enthralling than a pitching duel.
Those kinds of games usually involve low scores, tense at bats, and tons of strikeouts. Lookouts fans probably expected to see one at AT&T field on Friday night, when Chattanooga’s 104 MPH man Hunter Greene opposed top Marlins pitching prospect Max Meyer.
After Olympic athlete Mark Kolozsvary walked to start the bottom of the first, shortstop Jose Barrero drilled a grounder into leftfield. First baseman Yoel Yanqui showed great patience and walked after the Lookout’s hit, loading the bases for Brian Rey. The second baseman’s first-pitch grounder to opposing second baseman Riley Mahan started the double play and ended any chance the Lookouts had at giving Greene some early run support.
After an uneven first inning that involved runners at the corners but also two swinging strikeouts on 100-plus MPH fireballs, Greene was sharper in the second. Instead of trying to pump in constant heat, he threw a bevy of 90 MPH breaking balls. Demetrius Sims struck out for the second “out”, but catcher Chuckie Robinson couldn’t handle the ball and Sims beat out the throw to first. Greene’s second strikeout went much better, getting Mahan to strike out swinging on another fastball. Robinson then showed off his gun of an arm and picked off a diving Sims and redeemed himself for his previous mistake.
Meyer, who throws “only” 94 MPH on his fastball, was much more in control of his breaking stuff to start the second inning and forced two fly balls. But then centerfielder TJ Hopkins battled through a 3-2 count and slapped a grounder up the middle for another Lookout hit, and teammate Leo Rivas got a single into shallow left to put two runners on the basepaths. Leadoff hitter Braxton Lee bailed Meyers out when his ground ball went to first and ended the inning.
Greene himself got out of a mini-jam in the top of the third. After striking out his first batter, Peyton Burdick grounded a ball to shortstop Barrero. He couldn’t get a throw off and Burdick was safe at first. Next up was Jerar Encarnacion, who took one for his team and survived a Greene pitch and walked to first. With two men on, things were looking dicey. But Greene remained calm, and got Bleday to fly out to left before Fortes hit a hard ball that went directly into Barrero’s glove. Even though baserunners had abounded, the game was still somehow scoreless through two and a half innings.
Greene continued to look mortal in the fourth, walking two to start the inning before striking out one Blue Wahoo and getting another to fly out. For a thrower as gifted as Greene, all he needed to do was locate his bullets. His last offering of the inning was close enough to get a ground out to finish the top of the fourth. Meyer had a similar inning, putting two on but grinding through to get the necessary outs.
After Barrero’s incredible defensive play, Meyer went through yet another quick inning. Greene, continuing to do his best Shohei Ohtani impression, walked the first batter he faced (having only given up two hits through that point) and followed that by striking out a swinging Alonso with a blazing fastball. Then Sims went down on another wild swing that caught nothing but the Chattanooga air. And just for good fun, Greene sat Lorenzo Hampton down on another silly swing and miss to end a dynamic sixth inning. That was it for Greene, who went six innings, struck out nine, walked four, gave up two hits, and lowered his ERA to 1.98.
Pensacola’s Meyer also got pulled after that for Zach Wolf, having given up only four hits in five innings and his only blemish being four walks. Perhaps they regretted taking Meyer out after Chuckie Robinson at-bat. The catcher tore the cover off the baseball with a home run that the centerfielder might as well have waved goodbye to on its way into the atmosphere. The home run went into the deepest part of centerfield and over the 400 foot wall as Robinson trotted around the bases and the scoreboard changed to 1-0 Lookouts.
The Lookouts handed the ball to Dauri Moreta and their bullpen, which has been a dicey proposition all season. Moreta did more than justify manager Ricky Gutierrez’s trust in him with a ruthlessly efficient seventh where he struck out the first two batters, and drew a controversial walk against Burdick. Instead of a conventional third strikeout, Moreta’s pitch was so potent that Robinson couldn’t quite handle it. After a little excitement, he roped a throw down to Yanqui for the third out.
After the Lookouts failed to get another run on the board, Moreta came back out for the eighth inning. He was just as sharp as he had been in the previous frame, fanning two and leaving the inning with the score the same as when he had entered. Coach Gutierrez called on Nick Howard to get the save in the ninth. Howard walked Mahan and moved him to second with a wild pitch, but otherwise went through a clean inning to close out the win.
BLUE WAHOOS: 0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0/0 - 0/3/0
LOOKOUTS: 0/0/0/0/0/1/0/0/X - 1/5/0
Meyer, Wolf (6), Mitzel (7), McKenna (8) and Fortes; Greene, Moreta (7), Howard (9) and Kolozsvary
You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus .