Mississippi left fielder Cody Johnson hit his second home run in as many nights to lead the Braves to a 9-1 whipping of the Chattanooga Lookouts at AT&T Field, but Johnson's always been known for power.
Now he's doing something about his hitting for average, too.
The first-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2006 hit .252 in Single-A Rome in '08 and hit .242 last season at high Single-A Myrtle Beach, but his Double-A average after Friday crept up to .261. Johnson leads Mississippi with nine homers and 25 RBIs this season.
"That's not a bad average for a guy like him," Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman said. "You can't find too many guys in the game with that kind of raw power. Our job is to try and provide him opportunities and experience to where he can cut down on strikeouts and put the ball into play more often, because when he puts it in play, you see what happens."
Johnson's homer soared over the Budweiser Pavilion in right field and provided the Braves a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. The 21-year-old from Panama City Beach entered this season as Atlanta's No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America.
"I was happy as can be to get out of here tonight without striking out," said the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, who drew two walks. "I'm really trying to get it into my head that I don't have to take a big swing. I've been trying to square the ball up as much as I can and try and hit singles. Some of those singles I'll lift a little bit, and they'll go out of the ball park."
Said Wellman: "He could be a junior in college right now, so we'll keep running him out there and see if he learns. He's going to strike out, but I'd rather see him strike out swinging. He's doing that right now. He's getting his swings in, and every time he swings, he's a threat."
Friday night's crowd of 6,309 was the third sellout at AT&T in four homestands. The Lookouts had just two home sellouts last year -- July 3rd and "Used Car Night" in August -- and those same two dates were the only sellouts in '08 as well.
"I think part of it is me being a marketing genius when the weather turns out nice, and I also think part of it is because we've kept ticket prices the same for 16 years," Lookouts owner Frank Burke said. "People are looking for ways to get out and about without spending a lot of money. I'm very proud of how affordable we've kept it."
Any hopes Chattanooga had of cutting into Mississippi's 4-1 lead imploded in the ninth inning, as Lookouts relief pitcher Harvey Garcia gave up a grand slam to Mauro Gomez and a solo shot to Donell Linares. The Lookouts fell to 15-20 and are five games under .500 for the first time this season, and they've been outscored 20-1 in the last 11 innings.
"We've got to be able to win series here. That's our biggest goal," said Lookouts second baseman Jaime Pedroza, whose third-inning error resulted in two runs for the Braves. "We've just got to keep our heads up and keep playing hard."
Following the game, the Lookouts boarded a bus for Mobile. John Koronka (0-2, 4.79 ERA) is set to start on the mound for the Lookouts in tonight's 8:05 EDT game, with Wes Roemer (2-1, 1.91) scheduled for the BayBears.
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 ...