Late homers power Trash Pandas past Lookouts 9-7
Rocket City scores six runs in seventh to even series in Chattanooga
By Aaron Cheris
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – The Rocket City Trash Pandas stormed ahead with a powerful top of the seventh inning, bashing three two-run home runs to turn a deficit into a lead for a 9-7 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts in the second game of their six-game series at AT&T Field on Wednesday night.
Trailing 7-3 going to the seventh, the Trash Pandas fought back. Anthony Mulrine led off by reaching first on a dropped third strike. Preston Palmeiro followed with a two-run homer well over the right field fence for his fifth big fly of the season, cutting the four-run deficit to two at 7-5. Jose Gomez then laid down a perfect bunt for a single. Ryan Aguilar was next and crushed a two-run home run of his own over the wall in right, his 11th homer of the season, evening the score at 7-7.
Torii Hunter Jr. kept it going with a double to deep left center, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. With one out in the inning, Kevin Maitan delivered the decisive swing, a towering 425-foot two-run blast to right, soaring well over the fence for his third homer of the season and putting Rocket City in front 9-7.
Nick Jones returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and quickly dispatched the Lookouts to hold the lead. Eric Torres was next in the eighth and struck out two of three batters faced in a clean frame of his own. Torres did even better in the ninth, striking out the side in order to finish the win and earn his Southern League-leading 11th save of the season.
Following a rough first inning on Tuesday, the Trash Pandas took advantage in the first inning on Wednesday. Gomez reached with a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Aguilar then hit a ground ball that deflected off the glove of the second baseman and went into right field for a single, allowing Gomez to come home and score the first run of the night.
Aguilar began the third with an infield single, reached second on an error, and stole third. Maitan was hit by a pitch to put two on with two outs. Braxton Martinez delivered with a sharp single to right to score Aguilar. As Maitan was running to third, the throw from right fielder Allan Cerda was wild, allowing Maitan to come home for a 3-0 Rocket City advantage. Chattanooga responded in the bottom of the third as Daniel Vellojin lead off with a solo homer against Rocket City starter Coleman Crow. Mike Siani then singled, stole second, and scored the on T.J. Hopkins’ double to right to make it a one-run game.
In the fourth, Crow struggled. Cerda was hit by a pitch and Michael De Leon was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Ivan Johnson propelled the Lookouts in front with a three-run homer to right. Vellojin followed with a long home run of his own for his second homer of the night, giving the Lookouts back-to-back long balls and a 6-3 lead after four. Crow ended his start by giving up six earned runs on eight hits, including three homers, with two walks and seven strikeouts over five innings. He would not factor in the final decision.
After entering in the third, Chattanooga reliever Spencer Stockton was sharp, pitching 3.1 scoreless frames to maintain the lead for the Lookouts. The Lookouts added one more to the lead in the bottom of the sixth, as Luke Murphy walked the bases loaded and Jones’ wild pitch allowed Siani to score, making it a 7-3 lead after six.
From there, the Trash Pandas homered their way in front in the seventh, and the bullpen held it down from there to snap a seven-game road losing streak.
At the plate, Aguilar led the way by going 3-for-5 with the tying home run, three RBI, and two runs scored. Palmeiro went 2-for-5 with the home run while Gomez went 2-for-4 with two runs. Maitan’s big night included the game-winning home run in a 1-for-2 performance with two walks and two runs scored.
Jones (W, 1-0) earned his first Double-A win for Rocket City, firing 1.1 scoreless frames with one strikeout. The six-run seventh inning ties the biggest offensive inning for Rocket City this season, which happened four previous times, most recently against Mississippi on June 9.
The Trash Pandas (53-39, 12-11 second half) continue their series against the Lookouts (39-53, 5-18 second half) on Thursday night. First pitch at AT&T Field is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio.