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Weather ends Trash Pandas’ comeback bid in 4-3 loss

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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – The Rocket City Trash Pandas made a late bid at a comeback on Thursday night at AT&T Field, but ultimately a weather delay proved to be the deciding factor, giving the Chattanooga Lookouts a 4-3 victory in the third game of the six-game series.

Down 4-3 entering the eighth, the Trash Pandas looked to even the score. Livan Soto led off the inning with a single, and Ryan Aguilar kept the inning alive with a two-out single to advance runners to first and third with two outs. As Torii Hunter Jr. was stepping to the plate, lightning above AT&T Field brought the players off the field. But Hunter Jr. wouldn’t get his shot to even the score.

With the game technically official after four and a half innings and Chattanooga leading, the delay brought an end to the game since the Lookouts maintained their lead for the rest of the night, even though Rocket City was at the plate when the game was called.

Making his first start of the season in a bullpen game, Trash Pandas righty Sean McLaughlin was shaky in the first, allowing solo home runs to Elly De La Cruz and Alex McGarry as Chattanooga jumped ahead 2-0 after the opening frame. The homer by De La Cruz was his first at the Double-A level and traveled an estimated 512 feet in completely leaving AT&T Field.

Those would be the only runs allowed by McLaughlin (L, 1-3) on the night. In his longest outing of the season, he fired 3.1 innings, giving up two runs on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts to suffer his third loss of the season.

Rocket City threatened in the top of the fourth, putting runners on second and third with one out against Chattanooga starter Ricky Salinas. However, the Trash Pandas couldn’t put a run across as Salinas got Jose Gomez to ground out and Braxton Martinez flew out to end the inning with Lookouts still ahead 2-0.

With McLaughlin out of the game in the bottom of the fourth, the Lookouts put runners on first and third against Trash Pandas reliever Aaron Hernandez. Jacob Hurtubise looked t plate another run with a soft line drive to left. But Hunter Jr. in left made a sliding catch to end the inning and keep Rocket City down 2-0.

Rocket City broke through in the top of the fifth. Jordyn Adams began the frame with a single. Zach Humphreys walked to put two on and one out. Preston Palmeiro then laced a double into the right field corner, plating Adams to cut the deficit in half. With a chance to tie the game or give the visitors the lead, Aguilar popped up to the catcher, ending the inning with Chattanooga in front 2-1.

Chattanooga responded in the bottom of the inning. De La Cruz’s RBI triple to deep center plated Mike Siani, who began the inning with a walk. De La Cruz later scored himself on a delayed double steal of home, coming home on a pickoff throw to first from Hernandez to make it 4-1 after five.

Kolton Ingram was next out of the Rocket City bullpen in the sixth and quickly sat down the Lookouts. The Trash Pandas clawed back in the seventh, with Hunter Jr.’s RBI single scoring Humphreys and Kevin Maitan’s ground out plating Palmeiro to make it a one-run game. The Trash Pandas then loaded the bases with two outs. With a full count, Jordyn Adams took a called third strike on the bottom of the strike zone to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. Ingram again worked around trouble in the seventh, keeping the deficit at one before the comeback bid was cut short in the eighth.

At the plate, Palmeiro and Aguilar each went 2-for-5 for the Trash Pandas while Adams added a pair of hits and a run scored from the bottom of the lineup. As a team, the Trash Pandas left 14 runners on base in the defeat.

The Trash Pandas (53-40, 12-12 second half) continue their series against the Lookouts (40-53, 6-18 second half) on Friday 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.

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