The start of the second half of the Southern League baseball season can be a time for renewal.
For Chattanooga Lookouts starting pitcher Zach Lee, it was a night to forget.
After a solid first-half performance that placed him among the league's top 10 in earned run average, Lee struggled Wednesday in a 7-2 loss to the Tennessee Smokies at AT&T Field. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander allowed a season-high six earned runs in four innings.
"I think it's one of those things you can't look too much into," Lee said. "I just needed to get the ball a little further down in the zone. It all goes back to when the ball is up in the zone, they hit it."
Lee's previous high of earned runs this year was four.
The No. 5 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers according to Baseball America entered Wednesday with a 2.65 ERA and retired the Smokies in order during the first two innings. Lee was still in a 1-1 game with two out in the fourth inning when the bottom surprisingly dropped out.
A tie became a 6-1 rout when Christian Villanueva homered to left field, Anthony Giansanti singled to left, Rafael Lopez doubled to left-center, Ronald Torreyes singled to left, Alberto Cabrera doubled to right-center and Matt Szczur doubled to right.
"He got two strikeouts there in the fourth and was cruising along, but he left a changeup up," Lookouts manager Jody Reed said. "The kid hit it out of the ballpark, and here comes the avalanche. He got some pitches elevated in the zone, and they took advantage of it. I talked to him during the game and told him that every pitch should be precious and that the higher you move up, the more guys have the ability to take advantage of mistakes."
Said Lee: "I can't remember that ever happening before, but I had some opportunities and just left a couple of balls up."
Lee dropped to 5-5 and had his ERA swell to 3.23.
Chattanooga loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but Jan Vazquez struck out after a potential grand slam sailed foul and pinch-hitter Angelo Songco flied out to deep center.
The Lookouts took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Joc Pederson drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on Brian Cavazos-Galvez's double to center. Their advantage held until the third inning, when Tennessee tied the game with consecutive doubles by Lopez and Torreyes.
Chris Reed (3-5, 3,80) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 game for the Lookouts, with Austin Kirk (0-1, 0.73) scheduled for the Smokies.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.