With manager John Valentin out of town to attend his daughter's high-school graduation, Chattanooga Lookouts hitting coach Luis Salazar took over coaching third base Wednesday night.
The Lookouts could not have made the transition any easier.
Tallying double-digit runs at AT&T Field for the first time in two months, the Lookouts obliterated the Mississippi Braves 13-3 before a crowd of 2,795. Chattanooga built a 13-1 lead after seven innings, which was its largest advantage of the season.
"To me, the off day we had yesterday helped big-time," Salazar said. "It was coming off a long road trip, and we were able to come out relaxed tonight. We were patient at the plate and had a lot of hits with two strikes, and that's what it takes."
Wednesday's whitewash also took place in front of Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who was attending AT&T for the first time.
Eduardo Perez's double to right in the third inning scored Adam Godwin and Justin Sellers to put Chattanooga up 3-0, and a double to right by Victor Mercedes in the fifth scored Andrew Lambo and Russ Mitchell to make it 8-1. Then the Lookouts opted for the home run, with Josh Bell going deep to right-center in the sixth inning and Mitchell to center in the seventh.
Each was a two-run shot.
"This was big for us," Mitchell said. "We had a talk in Montgomery about just starting over as a team, picking each other up and starting fresh."
Said Bell: "I think it was just one of those big nights where everyone had it going."
Mississippi aided Chattanooga's output by committing three errors. Braves starting pitcher Scott Diamond allowed eight runs in five innings but only one was earned, so his ERA actually improved from a 3.72 to a 3.59.
Diamond was one of four pitchers used by Braves manager Phillip Wellman, but former Rhea County standout Cory Gearrin was not among them.
Chattanooga improved to 27-38 with four games left in the Southern League's first-half race. Mississippi dropped to 30-36 and has lost six straight games by a combined score of 47-9.
Salazar is in his third season as hitting coach for the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate and managed the Gulf Coast League Dodgers for three years earlier this decade. Also guiding the team in Valentin's brief absence is Mike Brumley, the organization's minor league field coordinator.
Before Wednesday's game, Gabriel Gutierrez joined the Lookouts as the backup catcher to Mike Rose. Gutierrez split time last season between high Single-A Inland Empire and Jacksonville.
Josh Lindblom (3-4, 4.28) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 game for the Lookouts, with Ryne Reynoso (3-3, 3.76) scheduled for the Braves.
No Manny for Lookouts
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Wednesday that star left fielder Manny Ramirez will begin his minor league assignment next Thursday with Inland Empire, which is within an hour of Los Angeles. Ramirez will not be suiting up for the Lookouts before his return to the majors.
"Obviously we would have loved to have him," Lookouts owner Frank Burke said, "but I respect their decision."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...