Filling in for Olympian Mark Kolozsvary, catcher Jay Schuyler was tearing down the basepaths on a steal attempt. If he could reach second, the Lookouts would have a player in scoring position and perhaps some new life. But as he slid, his cleats must have got stuck in the dirt. His slide came up just a bit short, and the Lookout catcher was tagged out. The entire Lookout offense seemed stuck in the dirt until too late in their Tuesday 3-0 loss to the Birmingham Barons.
It was the first time the Lookouts have been shutout all season.
Top prospect Micker Adolfo belted a double off starting lefty Connor Curlis, who has had an uneven season up to this point (4-4 with a 4.28 ERA), and then first baseman Jameson Fisher lined a grounder into leftfield, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Curlis pitched himself out of the early jam by striking out Yolbert Sanchez on an inside breaking ball.
Opposing Curlis was a fellow southpaw Taylor Varnell, whose fastball touched 95 MPH according to the outfield speed-sign. That high-speed four-seamer broke Lorenzo Cedrola’s bat in an inning-ending grounder to close the first inning. Lookouts staff had to run onto the field and collect the rest of the wooden corpse soon thereafter.
Craig Dedelow got a chance to come home from first when Mitch Roman sent a Curlis pitch over right-fielder Drew Mount’s head. By the time Mount made the throw into catcher Jay Schuyler, Dedelow simply had to sidestep the catcher to come home. Romy Gonzalez followed that up by blasting a two-run homer over the left-field wall and gave Birmingham a 3-0 lead.
Mount started his half of the inning by slapping a single into right, but remained stranded at his station when Byrd Tenerowicz swung and missed on a 3-2 count. Brian Rey got decked later in the third, when he go trucked by a teammate on a tough popup to the right side. Yoel Yanqui held onto the ball despite the contact for the second out though.
Every time the Lookouts appeared to get something going, they would shoot themselves in the foot. When Jay Schuyler tried to steal second in the third, his slide ended just a bit before he got to the bag and shortstop Romy Gonzalez was able to apply the tag. Like an unnamed Chattanoogan who may be leaving for the city of the big blue star, the Lookouts were unable to find what they were looking for at home.
Curlis loaded the bases in the top of the fifth, putting on the last two baserunners with two outs. Schuyler walked out to the mound for a brief chat with the starter, and then Curlis settled in for a battle with the bulky Xavier Hernandez. Birmingham’s catcher fouled off a couple of pitches, took balls when he had to, but ended the inning by popping up to Mount in right and the game entered the second half still sporting a 3-0 score. Curlis’ night was finished after five, and he ended the outing having allowed four hits, four walks, and three earned runs.
The Lookouts started the bottom of the fifth with a Mount double down the first-base line, and then Tenerowicz got plunked and took his stop at first. Mount got thrown out on a double-steal, and then Tenerowicz was thrown out at home when a Schuyler’s single went right to the left fielder. Dedelow made an accurate throw to home and it wasn’t even a difficult play.
While the Lookouts continued to flounder with their bats, Diomar Lopez was sharp in two innings of scoreless relief. Alexis Diaz was equally sharp in the scoreless eighth, but the Lookouts great pitching was wasted without timely hitting to complement it. Schuyler gave a ball a good ride to the outfield wall, but a leaping Joel Booker robbed him of extra bases.
Chattanooga finally got something going in the bottom of the eighth. Yanqui singled to left, and then TJ Hopkins singled to center to put two base runners on with two outs. A Lorenzo Cedrola grounder to the shortstop ended any hopes of an eighth inning rally.
And in the ninth, Brian Rey lined a single into center after Wilson Garcia had grounded a ball through the infield defense in right. Tenerowicz walked after working it to a 3-2 count, and reliever Lane Ramsey suddenly had the bases loaded with Schuyler coming up to bat. Ramsey got Schuyler out on a swinging strikeout, and then got Braxton Lee to fan on three pitches to close out the game.
The Lookouts (36-28) now sit two games above the Barons (35-32) in the standings. First pitch is 7:15 on Wednesday.
BIRMINGHAM: 030 000 000 - 3-5-0
CHATTANOOGA: 000 000 000 - 0-9-2
Varnell, Paulino (6), Perez (7), Ramsey (9) and Perez; Curlis, Di Lopez (6), Diaz (8), Figueroa (9) and Schuyler