The Jackson Generals are burying the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League's first-half race, and Nick Franklin is providing the shovels.
Franklin went 4-for-4 and drove in three runs Sunday afternoon to lead Jackson to a 7-0 whipping before a crowd of 2,322 at AT&T Field. The league's leading hitter with a .345 average, Franklin is 6-for-9 with six RBIs through two games this series.
"We're doing well and winning a lot of games, and I just think that hitting is contagious," Franklin said. "I don't let the little things bother me. I just like to go out there and play hard every day."
Jackson extended the league's best record to 35-22 and increased its lead over the third-place Lookouts (28-29) to seven games with 13 games remaining in the North Division chase.
Franklin, a 21-year-old from Longwood, Fla., is rated by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder wasted little time in making an impact Sunday, following Francisco Martinez's leadoff walk with a two-run home run to right.
"It was kind of nice to set the tone at 2-0, but I liked all my hits," Franklin said. "Really, I'm just glad we won. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and win the series."
In Jackson's 6-5 win Saturday night, Franklin launched a three-run homer to right in the seventh inning.
Franklin singled to center in the fourth inning Sunday to score Joe Dunigan to make it 4-0. He drew a walk in the ninth, thus having to settle on his four-hit effort matching a season-high.
"That's what he gets paid to do," Lookouts pitching coach Chuck Crim said.
Chattanooga had a chance to close the gap in the fifth inning when Nick Buss drew a two-out walk to load the bases, but Buss got picked off first. The Lookouts were handcuffed by Generals starting pitcher Danny Hultzen, who worked into the sixth inning and allowed just two hits while striking out six.
Hultzen, the top pick of the Mariners last year, improved to 6-3 with a 1.44 earned run average.
"He moved it in and out and had good command," Lookouts right fielder Blake Smith said. "He attacked guys and got outs."
Crim said that Chris Reed, who is 1-4 with a 3.09 ERA at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, will start for the Lookouts tonight.