The Chattanooga Lookouts have struggled this season against the Tennessee Smokies, but Sunday's final first-half matchup between the two provided a rare exception.
Ozzie Martinez's two-run home run to left field in the fourth inning helped the Lookouts slip past the Smokies 6-4 before a sun-splashed crowd of 2,145 at AT&T Field. The victory was just Chattanooga's second in 10 meetings against Tennessee this season.
"Obviously they've had success off us, and we think about that," Lookouts left fielder Scott Schebler said. "The way to get over it is not by pressing but by going out there and taking every day the same and just trying to get better."
Jeremy Hazelbaker added a two-run triple to right-center in the fifth inning for the Lookouts, who are 12-17 overall and 10-9 against teams other than Tennessee.
"They're playing good baseball, obviously, because they had won six in a row," Lookouts manager Razor Shines said. "We haven't been playing good ball, and when you get that combination, the team that's playing well usually comes out on top. We're not playing as good as we were a week ago, and sometimes you've got to tip your cap to your opponent.
"Tennessee has been playing good baseball, but I don't want to give them all the credit."
Despite the names of players changing month-to-month and year-to-year in the Double-A ranks, the Lookouts rarely seem to conquer their foes up the road on Interstate 75. Chattanooga's 2-8 mark this season against Tennessee follows a 9-16 record last year and 11-14 in 2012.
The Lookouts last won a season series against the Smokies in 2011, going 13-11, but the two teams then met in the North Division playoffs and Tennessee rolled to a three-game sweep.
Chattanooga's best team of the past 20 years from a record standpoint was the 2004 club that went 87-53, which had infielder Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Chris Denorfia, starting pitcher Dustin Moseley and reliever Todd Coffey. Those Lookouts, however, were bounced three-games-to-one in the divisional playoffs by a Smokies team that was 69-71 in the regular season and had a losing second half.
Schebler believes this season's struggles may be more about facing other National League affiliates than just the Smokies. Tennessee is the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, so games between those two are played under NL rules.
The Lookouts can use a designated hitter when playing American League affiliates such as Birmingham and Jackson and are 8-6 in those games so far this season.
"I don't know if we try to do a little more offensively because we know the pitcher is there and that we don't have the DH," Schebler said. "It seems like we've gotten down in those games and just started pressing because we know the pitcher is in the lineup. We've definitely played better to this point against American League teams, and that's what I would chalk it up to, but maybe our matchups with them aren't good."
Chattanooga will begin a five-game series tonight in Pensacola, which is the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Lookouts will then play Huntsville, Mobile and Mississippi, so most of this month will be against National League opposition.
"There are a lot of things that need to get better here, including me," Shines said. "We'll get it ironed out. I'm not worried about that."
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