Now that was a worthwhile homestand.
Chattanooga polished off a five-game sweep of putrid Pensacola with an 11-1 win on a pleasant Monday night at AT&T Field, which was also the 10th consecutive home game for the Lookouts. Since losing to Tennessee in the first game of a doubleheader on May 20, the Lookouts have won seven straight.
"It's all coming together, so we just have to keep it going," said Lookouts center fielder Joc Pederson, who leads the Southern League in hits (60) and runs scored (41). "We've been playing good baseball. We're hitting when runners are on. Our pitchers are throwing great, and we're playing good defense."
The Lookouts, whose longest win streak last year was seven games, extended this season's best stretch behind Yasiel Puig's three-run home run to center field in the first inning and Griff Erickson's solo homer to right-center in the second. Puig added a two-run blast to left-center in the fourth, and Lookouts pitcher Michael Thomas allowed two hits in four scoreless innings in his Class AA starting debut.
Chattanooga has allowed just 13 runs in this seven-game surge.
"Clearly the pitching is carrying us," manager Jody Reed said. "The defense has been solid all year, but the pitching has really been in attack mode. They are coming after the hitters. We're getting some timely hitting, but when you've got good pitching and good defense, you've got a chance to string some wins together."
Pederson's productivity and Puig's power continue to come to the forefront, but Reed and pitching coach Hector Berrios credit relief pitchers Kyle Cofield, Yimi Garcia, Greg Infante and Hector Nelo for key roles in the team's improvement. Chattanooga's bullpen had a 4.98 earned run average in April but entered Monday with a 3.42 ERA this month.
"Sometimes you have to take two steps back to take a step forward, and I think that's what we're seeing right now," Berrios said. "We have thrown more strikes this homestand, and we have kept the ball over the plate. We're starting to attack the zone on both sides and not just one side of the plate.
"We're using our changeup a little bit more, and we're really doing things to become an overall pitcher."
The Lookouts were in last place in the North Division when their streak started, but they are now 23-27 and in third. Birmingham continues to win, making it four straight Monday to improve to 32-18.
Chattanooga is nine games back of the Barons with 20 games left in the first-half race.
"We absolutely don't care," Reed said. "This is developmental, and we just want to play good baseball and get these guys better on a daily progression."
Said Pederson: "I have no idea what's going on in the standings."
Zach Lee (3-3, 2.98 ERA) is scheduled to start tonight's 8:05 EDT series opener at Mobile, with Andrew Chaffin (1-3, 3.38) scheduled for the BayBears.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.