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Lookouts rough up Smith, Smokies, 9-0
By NICK GATES, email@example.com
June 17, 2006
SEVIERVILLE - Greg Smith was the most dominating pitcher in the California League this season. The left-hander was 9-0 for the Lancaster JetHawks with a league-low 1.63 earned-run average. It didn't take long Friday night for Smith to realize he wasn't in Class A anymore.
Championship-bound Chattanooga gave Smith a rough Southern League baptism in front of a crowd of 5,767. The Lookouts erupted for four hits and two runs in the first inning against the Tennessee left-hander and blitzed the Smokies' beleaguered bullpen en route to an 8-0 victory at Smokies Park.
Chattanooga (43-25) has an iron grip on the North Division first-half title with two games to go. All the Cincinnati Reds Class AA farmhands need is another win or a West Tenn loss to celebrate.
The Lookouts are on the verge of their second playoff berth in three years because they own Tennessee (31-37). The Lookouts have won 10 of 13 games, including the first three of this five-game series that winds up the first half.
"They're playing for the division title, we're playing for nothing and it looks like we're playing for nothing," Tennessee manager Bill Plummer said. "We're pretty flat."
Plummer realizes that the midseason restart isn't the magic elixir.
"We start the second half Monday and just because we're zero and zero doesn't make us a good team," he said. "I want some momentum going into (the second half)."
It's been an all-too-familiar and painful script against Chattanooga on two fronts: The Smokies have been handcuffed by Chattanooga pitching - one run in the last 21 innings - and two ex-Smokies play as if they have a vendetta against Tennessee.
The Smokies managed two singles in five innings off starter Eddy Valdez (3-3). The bullpen completed the two-hitter that included 11 strikeouts.
"The problem is we don't have enough guys swinging the bat very well," Plummer said. "We're fouling off everything, taking third strikes and swinging at pitches out of the zone. It's frustrating."
Plummer had a pregame meeting with his team that wasn't productive.
"We talked about turning up the intensity and pitching better with men in scoring position," he said. "We don't execute."
Noochie Varner stroked a two-run single in the first and is 17-for-46 (.370) with 11 RBIs in 12 games against the Smokies. Varner was Arizona property and played for Tennessee last year, but was released by the Diamondbacks at the end of spring training.
Dewayne Wise was 2-for-4 with a solo home run off Smith. Wise, who played for Tennessee 2000-02 when the Smokies were a Toronto Blue Jays' farm team, is 8-for-13 (.615) in the series and is hitting .415 in 11 games since joining Chattanooga.
Fortunately for the Smokies, the former major leaguer - Wise played for Toronto as well as the Atlanta Braves - won't be inflicting more damage the second half. The Reds are expected to promote him to Class AAA Louisville after Sunday's game.
Roster Moves: Arizona received Jake Baxter from the Detroit Tigers to complete the trade for former Tennessee utility infielder Adam Haley and the pitcher was assigned to Class A South Bend in the Midwest League.
Arizona assigned pitcher Jonathan Castellanos to the Smokies from extended spring training. The 24-year-old right-hander from Mexico had a 10-3 record and 4.65 earned-run average last year at Lancaster.