Mudcats score late to beat Lookouts
By Darren Epps Staff Writer
Noochie Varner ran out of room, the bullpen ran out of favors and Chattanooga ran out of luck Friday night in a 7-3 loss to Carolina at BellSouth Park.
The Lookouts (6-3) won the three previous games in this series by a total of four runs, getting clutch pitching from a reliable bullpen and leaning on two critical Carolina errors in the last two days.
Chattanoogaís bullpen made the error Friday. Facing reliever Carlos Guevara with the score tied 3-3 in the seventh, Carolinaís Ryan Bear crushed an inside fastball for a two-out, two-run home run over Varnerís head in left field.
"I donít agree with that pitch selection," Chattanooga manager Jayhawk Owens said. "What you hope is these guys learn. I think some guys learned some things."
The Mudcats (4-5) scored two more runs in the eighth against Brock Till, rare offense against a bullpen that entered the game with five wins, three saves and a 2.55 ERA. Before allowing Bearís home run, Guevara (0-1) had allowed just one hit and no runs in four innings.
"Our bullpen has been unbelievable, and this was the day where they werenít able to hold the lead," Owens said.
"But itís also time for the offense to step it up a little bit. Theyíve got to be able to pick up some more runs. We canít rely on our bullpen every day to keep a low lead."
The offense certainly wasnít pointing fingers. The Lookouts are batting just.213 this season after managing six hits ó two on home runs ó against three Carolina pitchers. Aaron Herr tied the game 3-3 in the sixth with a two-run homer, but Chattanooga managed just one hit the rest of the game.
This time, Carolina boasted the better bullpen and didnít make the key blunder.
"Weíve just been squeaking by," said center fielder Chris Dickerson, who hit a solo homer, his first of the year, in the second. "It was a matter of time before we didnít come through. You can only have so much luck."
Chattanooga starter Steve Kelly got behind hitters early in the game, allowing two runs in the first and another in the fifth following a two-out walk with nobody on. He allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings.
"I donít think he ever really found his crisp control that he needs to rely on," Owens said.
The Lookouts announced following the game that relief pitcher Mike Nannini, who appeared in four games this year and posted a 3.18 ERA, was sent down to Sarasota. His replacement on the roster has yet to be determined.
Chattanooga and Carolina conclude the five-game series tonight at 7:15. "Hopefully," Dickerson said, "we saved all our runs for the finale and we can end it with a bang."
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