It was just three weeks ago when the Chattanooga Lookouts took an important road trip to Alabama where they faced the Birmingham Barons in a key six-game series between two of the top teams in the league.
The Barons were leading the Double-A South’s North division by a couple of games, but the Lookouts had a great week and came home in first place after winning five of six games there.
The Lookouts have been in first place ever since, but now those same Barons are trying to do the same thing here at AT&T Field.
Trailing the Lookouts by three games when this week’s series began, that lead is now down to one game after the Barons posted a 3-0 shutout on Tuesday before walloping the home team by a 17-9 final on Wednesday.
Chattanooga is still in first by a slim margin with a record of 36-29 while the Barons are nipping at their heels with a 36-31 worksheet.
It seems like the biggest problem facing the Lookouts so far this season has been quality starting pitching. Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft have been great, but not so much can be said for others who have been given the starting nod.
Ricky Salinas was the latest casualty as he allowed eight runs on seven hits before being replaced with nobody out and the bases loaded in the third inning.
Five runs in the first gave the Barons the early lead and lots of confidence while eight more runs in the third sealed the deal as the Lookouts never really threatened again.
What it looked like was an old-fashioned batting practice where players from both teams got some quality swings, impressive hits and eight of nine starting hitters on both teams had at least one hit.
Combining for 26 runs and 31 hits, it wasn’t a very impressive evening for pitching as both teams scored at least one run in four different innings.
Second baseman Yolbert Sanchez was the most impressive Baron as he had four hits, reached on an error in a fifth at-bat and scored four runs. Teammate Craig Dedelow was another standout for Birmingham with three hits, two walks, three runs scored and four RBIs.
Perhaps the most unsung hero for the Barons was left fielder Tyler Neslony, who entered the game with one home run and one run batted in. Hitting eighth in the Birmingham batting order, he had a memorable day with two doubles a triple and five RBIs.
The Lookouts also posted some impressive numbers on offense, but none to compare with those just listed.
Brian Rey had three hits, including a two-run double, while T.J. Hopkins and Chuckie Robinson both had two hits and a pair of runs batted in. Yoel Yanqui also had a pair of singles.
That 5-0 lead in the first swelled to 13-3 after three innings before the Lookouts made things interesting with four runs in the fifth where Hopkins ripped his fourth home run and Rey drove in two more with a two-out double to the corner in right.
Robinson’s second RBI-double of the game in the seventh put runners on second and third with a chance to score more, but the rally ended when Byrd Tennerowich flied to right.
The Barons then put the game out of reach with three more runs in the eighth, highlighted by a two-run double from Neslony and a sacrifice fly by Joel Booker.
Blake Battenfield was the winning pitcher for the Barons as he improved to 6-4 after allowing seven runs on eight hits in five innings. Salinas was the loser for the Lookouts.
These same teams will meet again on Thursday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:15.
BIRMINGHAM 508 001 030 – 17 18 1
CHATTANOOGA 030 041 100 – 9 13 2
Battenfield, Elliott (6), Muckenhirn (7) and Perez; Salinas, Wynne (3), Byrne (7), Demurias (8) and Robinson.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)