Graham Ashcraft was the man of the hour for the Chattanooga Lookouts Saturday night.
Mired in a four-game losing streak against Birmingham where the Barons had scored 37 runs in those four victories, somebody needed to step up in a big way to stop the bleeding and somehow make something good happen for the local team.
The hard-throwing righty was more than equal to the task as he pitched seven scoreless innings where he scattered four hits, struck out eight and walked none.
Chattanooga was able to withstand a ninth-inning rally by the Barons as they held on for the 2-1 victory, sending 4,432 baseball fans home with smiles on their faces.
It was a hot and muggy Saturday night, but Ashcraft was on as he allowed a single in the first, third, sixth and seventh innings and never let a baserunner advance past first.
Meanwhile, the Lookouts scored their only two runs in the third and fourth innings and those two were more than enough with Ashcraft in control.
Byrd Tenerowicz put the home team on the board with a leadoff solo homer to right in the third while a two-out double by Wilson Garcia in the fourth drove in Yoel Yanqui with what turned out to be the winning run.
While Ashcraft was zipping through the first seven innings with hardly a blemish, Michael Byrne came on in the eighth and retired the side in order.
Things got a bit interesting in the ninth, however, as Hector Perez walked J.J. Muno on four straight pitches to lead off the inning. He scored when Carlos Perez ripped a double into the left-field corner to make it 2-1 and nobody out.
Perez then coaxed Jameson Fisher into a fly to center for the first out before Joe DeCarlo singled to left to put runners on the corners. Still with only one out and the Lookout fans sitting on the edge of their seats, Perez got Yolbert Sanchez to hit a grounder to Brian Rey at second, who flipped to shortstop Errol Robinson for the second out before firing a strike to Yanqui at first for the game-ending double play.
Ashcraft was the winning pitcher as he won for the fifth time in six decisions and his earned run average dropped from 2.33 to an impressive 1.85.
Jason Bilous was tagged with the loss for the Barons as his record dropped to 1-4 after allowing both runs on four hits. He also had three strikeouts and a walk and probably deserved a better fate, but it just wasn’t his night.
The Lookouts finished the game with seven hits with Rey being the only one with two. Ian Dawkins was the only Birmingham player with two hits as the Barons finished with six.
And while most everyone headed toward the gates happy, perhaps the best part of Saturday’s game was that it was over in two hours, 24 minutes.
These two teams are now tied for first place in the Double-A South’s Northern division and they will conclude this six-game homestand on Sunday afternoon with the first pitch set for 2:15.
BIRMINGHAM 000 000 001 – 1 6 0
CHATTANOOGA 001 100 00x – 2 7 0
Bilous, Hansen (5), Elliott (6) and Perez; Ashcraft, Byrne (8), Perez (9) and Schuyler.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)