Suns win send-off
Ninth-inning Hu,Abreu hits beat Lookouts
By David Paschall Staff Writer
Hu let the dogs out.
Chin-Lung Huís one-out RBI single to center field ignited a three-run ninth inning for Jacksonville as the Suns won the series finale Monday night with a 5-2 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts. The game was played before a sold-out crowd of 6,306, the second sellout this season at BellSouth Park.
"Any time you win a game itís a good feeling," Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker said, "but especially after youíve been on the losing end of three in a row."
The Lookouts honored the nationís birthday a few hours early by wearing blue jerseys, which were auctioned off during the game and later signed by players. First baseman Joey Vottoís jersey drew the highest bid at $280, followed by third baseman Aaron Herrís jersey at $225 and pitcher Homer Baileyís jersey at $220. Following Huís go-ahead hit, Tony Abreu doubled to the gap in right-center to drive in two more runs. Jacksonvilleís late outburst came at the expense of David Shafer, who had his first two-inning stint this season.
"The game plan was to stretch me out, and in my second inning I just didnít make pitches," Shafer said. "I started working behind hitters and leaving the ball out over the plate. When that happens, you get hit."
Shafer leads the Southern League in saves with 23 and is on pace to break the league mark of 36, but that record appears to be safe for another season. Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens said multiple innings is now a major part of Shaferís development.
"He was going to pitch two innings today, no matter what, and itís safe to say that he is no longer our closer," Owens said. "I want him to get to Triple-A, and thatís what David Shafer wants too. We donít project him as a closer at the major league level, but we see he has the ability to come out of the bullpen at the major league level and get people out.
"Itís going to be an adjustment for him. Heís used to going out there for one inning and thatís it. Tonight, he had to throw an inning, come back in and sit for a while. Regardless of what routine heís used to, it all changed tonight because he had to go back out and pitch again."
Jacksonville starter Alvis Ojeda retired the first 11 batters he faced and took a shutout into the sixth inning, but he lost that when Votto launched a first-pitch fastball over the Budweiser Pavilion in right to break the scoreless tie. Herr and Noochie Varner followed with doubles to give the Lookouts a 2-0 lead.
Travis Chick took his shutout into the seventh for the Lookouts, but he allowed a one-out walk to A.J. Ellis and a two-run home run to left to pinch-hitter Wilkin Ruan. "Ruan gave us a big lift with that home run off the bench," Shoemaker said. "Heís not an extra-base hitter, and he hit one out."
Despite Mondayís loss, the Lookouts (9-6 second half, 53-32 overall) felt good about taking three of five from the Suns (7-8, 54-31) and believe they might be the new team to beat at playoff time.
"If itís the same at the playoffs as it is now, then I would hope we would be the favorite," Herr said. "We should be. Having Joey, me and Noochie as a 3-4-5 combo ó itís starting to get talked about. Itís probably by far the best in the league."
Said Owens: "It was nice to take three of five from the team with the best record in the league. I think thatís saying something about our team. It was such a nail-biter late in the first half, but to come out in the second half and take three of five from these guys showed we deserved it."
Josh Hall (3-2, 4.14 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Lookouts in tonightís 8:05 series opener at West Tenn, with Bobby Brownlie (2-6, 5.83) scheduled for the Diamond Jaxx. Tonightís game would have decided the North Divisionís first-half champion had Chattanooga and West Tenn finished in a tie, but the Lookouts prevailed by one game.
In no surprise whatsoever, Bailey was named Monday as the leagueís pitcher of the week after throwing 12 scoreless innings last week in his first two Double-A starts against Carolina and Huntsville. The top prospect of the Cincinnati Reds is a candidate to repeat the honor after adding five scoreless innings in Sundayís win over Jacksonville.
E-mail David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org