No evening better summarized the first half for the Chattanooga Lookouts than June 6, when they lost 6-5 to the Carolina Mudcats at AT&T Field.
Chattanooga took a 5-1 lead into the eighth inning before the bullpen imploded, sending the Lookouts to their 10th loss in 12 games. The bullpen had been swiped of eighth-inning standout Javy Guerra and closer Josh Lindblom, who were promoted in May to Los Angeles.
"Any time you get some promotions, the ship can take a little bit of a hit, and we took a little beating," manager Carlos Subero said. "We haven't played up to our potential, so I can't say that I'm satisfied with the first half, but I think our pitchers have played up to their potential."
The June 6 loss to the Mudcats dropped the Lookouts to six games under .500 at 26-32, but they regrouped to finish 35-35 after Sunday's 11-6 win at Tennessee. Chattanooga still hasn't produced a winning half with the Dodgers since becoming their Double-A affiliate after the 2008 season.
This was, however, the most productive half from a development standpoint since the partnership. Sandwiched between the first big-league promotions for Guerra and Lindblom was an inaugural big-league call-up for starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.
De La Rosa, who began the season as Baseball America's No. 3 organizational prospect, went 2-2 with a 2.93 earned run average in eight starts with the Lookouts. Guerra was 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 14 games before his promotion, while Lindblom was 1-3 with a 2.96 ERA in 19 appearances.
"Everybody who was around figured that Rubby was going to be at the big-league level at some point this year, and the development of Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom is what it's all about," pitching coach Chuck Crim said. "We want to have a home-grown atmosphere with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is really what they've based their clubs on before. We want them not only to be usable but big-leaguers who can help us win a pennant. It's not just to get them there."
The Lookouts finished the half ranked second in the Southern League in team ERA with a 3.67, and they will open the second half with some promise due to Will Savage (7-2, 3.70 ERA), Nate Eovaldi (5-4, 2.84), Allen Webster (0-1, 3.38) and Chris Withrow (2-5, 4.76) in the rotation and Cole St. Clair (0-1, 1.69) in the bullpen.
From a hitting standpoint, the Lookouts ranked seventh in the league with a .260 average. Outfielders Scott Van Slyke (.320) and Kyle Russell (.280 and 14 home runs) have been invited to Tuesday night's Southern League All-Star Game, but Chattanooga mostly has struggled at the plate and can't use personnel moves as an excuse.
"We haven't really had a promotion on our offense other than Corey Smith," Subero said. "I think we're getting better at getting quality at-bats, but we need to get more."
Alfredo Silverio went 4-for-5 Sunday and is now hitting a team-leading .324, but the Lookouts had a three-game stretch at home against Huntsville in late May where they scored one run.
"We started the year off pretty well, but then we lost a couple of guys to Triple-A and then lost a bunch in our bullpen to the big leagues," Van Slyke said. "I'm sure if everybody was still here that started the year here and nobody moved, I think things would have gone a little differently, but things happen and your chemistry changes."