Rafael Lopez was 3-for-4 with a RBI double in the first, Stephen Bruno had a two-run pinch hit double during a five run ninth and Matt Loosen struck out a season high eight while allowing just one run over five innings as the Smokies defeated the Lookouts 7-2 at AT&T Field in Chattanooga on Thursday night.
Loosen (2-2) allowed just three hits and walked one in the victory. He allowed one Chattanooga (11-15) run in the fifth, but that was all over his strong five inning effort. The Smokies (14-13) took the lead back in the sixth and added five more in the ninth while improving to a game above .500 for the first time this season.
Tyson Brummett started and took the loss for the Lookouts. Brummett (2-2) allowed two runs while scattering seven hits over 6 and 2/3 innings pitched. He walked two and struck out seven.
Kris Bryant started things for the Smokies offense with a single in the first. He later scored on a RBI double from Lopez off Brummett. The double was the tenth of the season for Lopez. He has now driven in 11 runs this season.
The Smokies led 1-0 through the fourth, but the Lookouts got on the board and tied things up at 1-1 in the fifth. Loosen struck out Erisbel Arruebarrena to start the Chattanooga fifth, but then gave up a back-to-back doubles to Chris O’Brien and Ozzie Martinez.
The Smokies broke the 1-1 tie when Rubi Silva led off the sixth with a walk and scored later in the inning on a pinch hit sacrifice fly from Charlie Cutler. Cutler batted in place of Loosen who was taken out of the game.
P.J. Francescon relieved Loosen and pitched a scoreless sixth. Francescon pitched two scoreless innings and walked one.
Reliever Mike Thomas finished the seventh with a strikeout of Dustin Geiger. Thomas stayed in for part of the eighth, but left after allowing a single to Silva and a walk to pinch hitter Stephen Bruno. Juan Noriega was brought in to finish the inning and was able to get out of it unscathed. The Smokies loaded the bases in the eighth, but were not able to score.
Tony Zych pitched the eighth and kept the Lookouts without a run despite giving up two hits. He got Daniel Mayora to ground into a double play and then struck out Noel Cuevas to end the inning and preserve the 2-1 lead.
The Smokies stranded three in the eighth, but that would not be the case in the ninth. They broke through for five runs and four hits off both Noriega and reliever Juan Gonzalez. The rally started with a walk by Bryant at the top of the inning. Lopez and Geiger followed with singles to load the bases and Silva brought in Bryant with a sacrifice fly. Bruno then broke things open with a two-run double to left to bring the lead to 5-1. The Lookouts then opted to intentionally walk John Andreoli to get to the reliever Zych. Andreoli went on to steal second and moments later Zych brought him and Bruno in with a two-run single to center.
Zych’s RBI single knocked Noriega out of the game and gave the Smokies a 7-1 lead. Zych (S, 2) remained in the game for the ninth and finished the game for the Smokies. He allowed a run and two hits in the ninth while earning his second save of the season.
The series continues in Chattanooga on Friday night. The first pitch at AT&T Field is scheduled for 7:15 PM ET.
The Smokies return home to Smokies Park on Monday, May 5th for a five-game series against the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The homestand is highlighted by a McGhee Tyson Airport Low Fare Monday, the first Frontline Heartgard Tail-Waggin’ Tuesday, All-You-Can-Eat Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday and a RAM Friday featuring Fireworks!
Visit smokiesbaseball.com or call (865) 286-2300 for ticket information.