PENSACOLA, Fla., - Pensacola Blue Wahoos starting pitcher Jose Lopez called his nine strikeouts against the first 10 Chattanooga Lookouts batters "just another game." But to all the other onlookers Tuesday at Blue Wahoos Stadium, his performance was impressive.
The 22-year-old right hander struck out a career-high 11 batters and the left fielder Tyler Goeddel hit a clutch bases-loaded double to left field as Pensacola rallied to beat Chattanooga for the second straight game.
Coming into the four-game series, Pensacola, the South Division first half champions, were 1-9 against Chattanooga, the North Division first half champions. The Blue Wahoos now lead the series, 2-1.
Pat Kelly said he was disappointed Lopez failed to get the victory. Instead, reliever Geoff Broussard got the victory striking out two in his one scoreless inning of relief to improve to 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA.
"It's a shame he didn't get the win," Kelly said. "He really pitched exceptional, especially against that club. He dominated them. That was fun to see."
Lopez said he has worked with pitching coach Danny Darwin to tweak his mechanics.
"I threw every pitch for a strike," Lopez said. "I was just pounding the zone. I've turned things around a little bit."
That's an understatement. Lopez had a no-hitter through the first 4.2 innings before right fielder Max Murphy, playing his fourth game for the Lookouts, smacked his first Double-A homer just over the right field fence on a curveball.
Lopez tied his career-high of 10 strikeouts in the sixth inning when the hurler got Chattanooga first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez out to end the inning. He then set a new career-high of 11 when he struck out the Lookouts leadoff batter in the seventh, DH Andy Wilkins.
Lopez gave up just three hits and a walk. It's his second strong outing in a row, after throwing eight scoreless innings in his previous start against the Biloxi Shuckers.
He credited Pensacola catcher Joe Hudson for his performances in both games, who directed Lopez to pound hitters inside, throw his breaking balls and elevate the ball in the strike zone.
"I love it," Lopez said. "We're on the same page. I trust him to watch the hitters for things I don't pick up."
Trailing, 1-0, Pensacola loaded the bases with one out to start the eighth inning. That's when Chattanooga manager Jake Mauer called for his left-handed reliever Randy Rosario to face leadoff hitter Goeddel, who doubled in center fielder Gabriel Guerrero and right fielder Aristides Aquino to put Pensacola ahead, 2-1. Second baseman Josh VanMeter then hit a grounder to Chattanooga second baseman Ryan Walker who threw it past catcher Carlos Paulino to allow both shortstop Blake Trahan and Goeddel to score for a 4-1 Blue Wahoos lead.
Pensacola turned to Zack Weiss for the second straight game in the ninth inning and the right-handed closer earned his fourth save in five opportunities.
"We're testing him," Kelly said. "We're testing his elbow to see how it feels. I think his stuff was better tonight (Tuesday). It's a really good sign that he is able to go back-to-back."
Meanwhile, Chattanooga starter Fernando Romero, who MLBPipeline.com ranks as the No. 4 prospect for the Minnesota Twins, worked five scoreless innings, allowed two hits, walked one and struck out five before turning the game over to Lookouts reliever Ryan Eades.
GAME NOTES The Pensacola Blue Wahoos play the final game of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins Double-A affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday. The Lookouts are starting RHP Randy LeBlanc (3-3, 4.96) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Domingo Tapia (3-4, 3.55).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
You can watch the home games live or tape delayed on Cox Sports Television Monday through Thursday on Channel 319. Friday, Saturday and Sunday games are broadcast live on BLAB-TV.
BIG FISH Left fielder Tyler Goeddel was 1-3 with the game-winning double to left field and scored a run...Nick Senzel got the first hit of the game in the fourth inning when he grounded up the middle. He was 1-4...Right fielder Aristides Aquino singled in three at bats and scored a run.
Tickets to the second half of the season are on sale now! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com, visiting the Box Office or calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.