by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s the second of the Carolina Mudcats’ four-game home set with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and it’s going to be a hot one.
The home team is colorful today, with pink and black stripes on its jerseys as part of a breast cancer awareness promotion. The horizontal stripe motif is reminiscent of the so-called “creamsicle” jerseys worn by the Houston Astros two decades ago.
Daryl Thompson (0-4) — who was recently diagnosed with mononucleosis — will pitch for the Mudcats against Chris Withrow (3-4).
For the second straight game the Mudcats get an early lead and hold on, beating the Lookouts 5-2.
Chattanooga takes the lead in the first as leadoff man Dee Gordon singles to left, takes second on Thompson’s throwing error, third on Jaime Pedroza’s infield single and home on another error from Thompson.
But the Mudcats get two in the bottom of the frame as Kris Negron leads off with a triple to right and Felix Perez follows by launching a 1-1 pitch high over the wall in right.
And Carolina adds three more in the second. With one out Sean Danielson walks, then Jose Castro is hit by a pitch before Thompson hits a fielder’s-choice ball to short. Negron hits an RBI single to left, and after Felix Perez singles up the middle Sean Henry pokes a two-run double to left to make it 5-1.
Thompson’s luck doesn’t hold, as he forfeits the chance at victory when he takes ill with one out in the Chattanooga fourth.
Lee Tabor comes on and holds the Lookouts in check until Brad Boxberger takes the hill in the seventh. And Andrew Lambo leads off the Chattanooga seventh by launching a 3-2 pitch onto the top of the clubhouse behind the former Catfish Corner wall in right.
The Mudcats hold on from there, despite a scary ninth in which the Lookouts load the bases before Jerry Gil gets out of the jam.
Tabor gets the win with a solid relief outing. The Mudcats’ first three hitters — Negron, Perez and Henry — get six of the team’s eight hits.
Here’s what they said …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “They’re never easy. At the end of a game like this the closer’s job isn’t easy. That’s why they make a lot of money in the big leagues. Jerry got in a little trouble but made some great pitches to get out of it. And Tabor was the key to the game. He came in and just shut them down. Our bullpen has been good for a while now, especially the last couple of days.”
Tabor: “With Daryl coming off mono, I knew he wasn’t going to go but maybe three innings. I take it the same way every time. As a reliever you might come in for one hitter or five innings. You’ve just got to be ready any time. We’ve got a good team with a lot of good hitters and good pitchers. Some stuff is starting to fall our way.”
Negron: “I’ve been feeling good. I’ve been working a lot with (Ryan) Jackson, the hitting coach and trying to stay comfortable and stick with my approach. I’ve put together some pretty good games lately. We definitely can make a run at this, and we’re playing as a team right now in all aspects of the game.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are still a game behind Huntsville.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Henry’s double for the early insurance runs.
Mudcats lead 11-8.
Carolina: Won 2.
Chattanooga: Lost 7.
Carolina: IF Carlos Mendez promoted from Lynchburg.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Monday, 7:15 p.m.
Brent Leach (L, 4-2, 5.52) vs. Scott Carroll (R, 2-4, 2.91)