The adage that pitchers hold the advantage over hitters coming out of spring training has not applied to this season’s first series at AT&T Field.
Brett Jackson’s grand slam in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon catapulted the Tennessee Smokies to an 8-5 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts before a sun-splashed crowd of 2,577. The Smokies have amassed 53 hits during their first four games and have three victories as a result.
“These guys are a little unconscious right now, and when you get hot, you kind of ride with it,” Lookouts pitching coach Chuck Crim said. “We happen to be the recipients of it, but we’ll get these guys. There is no doubt in my mind that once we get our pitching going and once these guys get off their cloud that it’s going to be a little different deal.”
Jackson is hitting .412 in the early going and is one of seven Smokies who played Sunday with an average higher than .350. Sunday briefly had the feel of a pitching showdown, as Tennessee took a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning, but then the hits kept coming.
“There are big bats on both sides and there is good pitching on both sides, and it seems like everyone is showing up ready to go this year,” Jackson said. “It takes a little bit of time to get your timing back even though you’ve had a whole month of spring training. I’m proud of the way our team has come out and handled business.”
Lookouts starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi struck out the first two Smokies he faced but then allowed a double to center by D.J. Lemahieu, an RBI double to center by Matt Spencer and an RBI single to center by Josh Vitters. Chattanooga was held hitless until the fifth, when Alfredo Silverio tripled to left-center with one out.
Silverio never reached home because of a fielder’s choice, but the Lookouts managed to tie the game moments later when Brad Coon’s triple to right-center scored Matt Wallach and Corey Smith. Silverio had another triple in the sixth to highlight a three-run inning that put Chattanooga up 5-2, but that lead evaporated when Jackson took Josh Lindblom deep to center.
“I just left a fastball a little up and in,” Lindblom said. “It was a bad choice and the wrong spot of the game to try and do that.”
The Smokies made it 7-5 in the eighth when Spencer drew a leadoff walk and scored on Steve Clevenger’s one-out double to right-center. Clevenger has a .455 average.
“It’s a testament to the Cubs,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of good hitters and great coaching in the organization. Guys are coming out to prove themselves this year, and this is a pretty stacked lineup. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Will Savage is scheduled to start tonight’s 7:15 series finale for the Lookouts, with Brooks Raley scheduled for the Smokies.
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 ...