The Chattanooga Lookouts play a 140-game regular season, and their long summer is getting longer.
After enduring a three-hour, 31-minute game Sunday at AT&T Field against Birmingham, the Lookouts have experienced 3:35 and 3:28 games during their first two series matchups with visiting Carolina. Chattanooga led the minor leagues last season with an average time of two hours and 59 minutes per nine-inning home game, and the Lookouts entered Wednesday ranked eighth with a 2:56 average.
"I think you feel it after the game more than anything," Lookouts first baseman Brian Cavazos-Galvez said. "During the game, sometimes you can tell, but it's a game that pretty much goes more by innings than time. The fatigue hits us more after the game."
Chattanooga (31-20) defeated the Mudcats 7-6 Wednesday afternoon when Griff Erickson's sacrifice to left in the bottom of the ninth inning brought Scott Van Slyke home. Van Slyke led off with a triple to right-center, and the Mudcats chose to intentionally walk Travis Denker and Cavazos-Galvez.
Yasmani Grambal's RBI single up the middle in the top of the ninth tied the game for Carolina.
Lookouts first-year pitching coach Chuck Crim is quite aware of the lengthy contests and believes the cause resides behind the plate.
"The umpiring is not very good," Crim said. "For me, the strike zone has shrunk, and guys are afraid to call strikes. Why? I don't know, but my analysis of it is because the umpiring has gotten tougher for some reason."
Crim believes personalities have been taken away from umpires due to all the critiquing they undergo, adding that they're more like "robots" now. The games, he continued, used to be easier when you knew what you were getting from an umpire.
The Lookouts started 10 minutes after the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, but the Braves were going into the 11th inning when the Lookouts were going into the seventh.
"I just got kicked out of a game the other day for arguing balls and strikes because sitting out here and watching this stuff all year has been unbelievable," Crim said. "I'm not asking for anything. All I want is if we throw a strike or a good, quality pitch, I expect it to be called. I'm not asking for a ball on the edge. I just want strikes called."
Minor League Baseball places extra-inning games in a separate category. The Lookouts entered Wednesday as one of two minor league teams this season that have played at least five extra-inning games with an average time of at least four hours.
Chris Withrow (4-6, 4.22) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 game for the Lookouts, with Justin Lehr (0-1, 4.15) scheduled for the Mudcats.