The 2012 Southern League season is still very much in its infancy, but the Chattanooga Lookouts are establishing a trend reminiscent of last year.
After taking four of five games in Jacksonville, the Lookouts returned Sunday to AT&T Field and dropped a 4-3 decision to Birmingham before a respectable crowd of 3,825. The loss was Chattanooga's fifth in six home games.
"We're still getting accustomed to things," Lookouts first baseman J.T. Wise said. "It will come. We've had one series on the road and six games at home, so you really can't say much right now."
In reaching the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006, the Lookouts went 36-33 at home and 41-29 on the road.
The Lookouts showed no ill effects from their seven-hour bus trip in the first inning, as starting pitcher Allen Webster tallied three strikeouts and Wise launched a two-run home run to left-center. It was the second homer of the year for Wise, who is hitting a team-leading .344 in his first Double-A stint.
"I'm happy, but I'd rather win that game right there," Wise said.
Birmingham trailed 2-1 entering the sixth inning but then scored twice, tying the game on Jared Mitchell's two-out RBI double to right and taking its first lead when Damaso Espino's single to center scored Mitchell. The Barons (5-6) extended their advantage to 4-2 in the eighth when former Lookouts infielder Corey Smith reached on an error, advanced to third on Seth Loman's single to right and scored on Jon Gilmore's ground out.
The Lookouts (5-6) pulled within 4-3 later in the eighth when Luis Nunez led off with a triple to right-center and scored on a one-out sacrifice to center by Nick Buss.
"This was our worst game defensively," Lookouts manager Carlos Subero said. "Mentally we weren't there, or it didn't seem like it. We had too many mental mistakes besides the two physical errors. We had as many errors tonight as we've had the whole year so far."
Webster, the No. 2 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization according to Baseball America, allowed two hits and a walk through four innings. He loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but gave up only one run, but the consecutive RBIs by Mitchell and Espino resulted in him slipping to 1-2 on the season with a 4.70 earned run average.
In six innings, Webster allowed seven hits and amassed seven strikeouts.
"I think it was probably his best performance so far this year," Lookouts pitching coach Chuck Crim said. "He threw strikes and had some mishaps out there that probably could have controlled the ball game. He kept his team in the game, threw strikes and continues to get better."
Ethan Martin (0-0, 3.12) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 game for the Lookouts, with Jose Quintana (0-1, 2.31) scheduled for the Barons.