CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (release) -- The Tennessee Smokies (12-15, 47-50) suffered their fourth straight loss, falling to the Chattanooga Lookouts , 4-3, on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Field. The Lookouts win combined with a Jackson loss pulls Chattanooga with a half game of the first-place Generals in the North Division.
The Lookouts (16-11, 48-47) opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when Travis Denker lifted a solo home run. Later in the frame, Chattanooga starter Aaron Miller helped his own cause, lacing a two-run double to left to give the Lookouts a 3-0 edge.
Held to just one hit over the first three frames, the Smokies broke through in the top of the fourth. After Jae-Hoon Ha led off with a single and Justin Bour doubled off the right field wall, Juan Apodaca lined a two-run double to center to cut the Tennessee deficit to 3-2. A pair of walks loaded the bases and forced Miller from the contest, but reliever Javier Solano induced an inning-ending pop out by Junior Lake to end the threat.
Jokisch gave way to Casey Weathers in the bottom of the sixth, and, after quickly retiring the leadoff batter, the reliever proceeded to walk three consecutive batters to load the bases. A Jake Lemmerman RBI ground out extended the Lookouts lead to 4-2. Weathers walked the next batter and was lifted from the contest after throwing just seven of his 25 pitches for strikes. Kevin Rhoderick entered and struck out Rafael Ynoa to strand the bases loaded.
The Smokies would get the run back in the top of the seventh. With two on and no outs, Logan Watkins singled home Nate Samson to make it a 4-3 game. The Smokies proceeded to place runners on the corners with one out, but reliever Luis Vasquez entered and struck out back-to-back batters to stymie the Tennessee rally.
In the top of the ninth, Chattanooga closer Steve Ames retired the side in order on just eight pitches to notch his 11th save of the season.
Solano (3-0) worked 2.1 hitless, scoreless innings in relief to earn the win after Miller surrendered two runs on three hits over 3.2 innings, walking four batters. Tennessee starter Eric Jokisch (5-2) suffered the loss, working five innings and yielding three runs on six hits. The Smokies were undefeated (8-0) in Jokisch’s first eight starts of the season prior to Thursday night.
The Smokies and Lookouts continue their four-game series on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. when Tennessee sends right-hander Dae-Eun Rhee (6-4, 5.21 ERA) to the mound against Chattanooga southpaw Chris Reed (0-1, 3.57 ERA) at AT&T Field.