Offense was in short supply for the Chattanooga Lookouts much of Thursday night. The second half of the Southern League season has started with a thud for the Lookouts, who managed only two hits over the first seven innings against Tennessee, as Chattanooga lost 3-2.
Much of the heavy lifting was done by Tennessee starter Austin Kirk (1-1), who was a six-game winner in the Florida State League before his recent promotion. Thursday, he worked 5.2 shutout innings, allowing only one hit and four walks while striking out eight. He also had an RBI single.
Through the first seven innings, J.T. Wise had the only Lookouts hits, both singles. But in the eighth, the Lookouts offense came to life against the Smokies third pitcher, Trey McNutt. Rafael Ynoa singled to lead off the inning. Joc Pederson followed with another single, and Brian Cavazos-Galvez forced the runner at second, but scored the lead runner.
In the ninth against closer Frank Batista, Miguel Rojas and Blake Smith opened the inning with back-to-back singles, and Jan Vazquez bunted them over into scoring position. Bobby Coyle, on as a pinch-hitter, walked on four straight pitches to load the bases.
Ynoa, who began the rally in the eighth, singled home Rojas to make it a one-run contest. Next batter was Joc Pederson, but he struck out. Brian Cavazos-Galvez, who has a pocketful of clutch hits already this year, was the last hope, but Batista struck him out as well after four foul balls to earn his 10th save.
The loss fell to Lookouts starter Chris Reed (3-6), who gave up two runs on four hits through six innings. The Smokies added a third run against Kyle Cofield in the seventh, which proved to be vital.