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Focused Lee notches first victory

Dodgers' top pitching prospect fans seven in longest outing
April 10, 2013

Zach Lee brushed off his only mistake of the night on Wednesday and refocused on the mission at hand.

"I hung a curve I needed to bury," the Dodgers' top pitching prospect said, "but I thought I executed my pitches well and the results showed that."

Lee pitched seven innings to match the longest outing of his career and record his first win of the season as the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts held on for a 6-2 triumph over the Tennessee Smokies.

Lee, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect behind Yasiel Puig, struck out seven and allowed one run on five hits and a walk.

"I felt pretty decent. I was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes, getting some early swings in the count, so that helped my pitch count," Lee said. "I was locating my fastball on the outside part of the plate and had a changeup and slider working, mixed in the curveball once in a while. I had a feeling for all four pitches but never really was able to hone in one or the other."

Lee (1-0) worked around a single and a stolen base in the first inning before striking out Jonathan Mota and Dallas Beeler to strand a pair of runners in the second. He worked a 1-2-3 third but served up a leadoff homer in the fourth to Justin Bour.

The former Texas prep star quickly moved on from the longball, however.

"I really just locked in and kept executing my pitches," said Lee, who retired the next seven batters, then got Christian Villanueva to bounce into an inning-ending double play to strand two more runners in the sixth.

The 21-year-old right-hander worked a perfect seventh, getting Mota on a called third strike on his 84th and final pitch.

Lee said he and Lookouts catcher Gorman Erickson planned to work the outside half of the plate Wednesday as they were unfamiliar with most of the Smokies lineup.

"For the most part, we were going to attack away, and me being the first guy to see these guys this season, we wanted to see what they'd do offensively," Lee explained. "We'd come in at times, which we did, and just started making them hit some stuff later on."

This wasn't the first time Lee has dominated the Smokies. Last Aug. 22, he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up allowing one run on two hits while striking out four over seven frames.

"There were a couple of the same guys [from that game]. Bour was there last year, Matt Szczur," he said. "But I wasn't really having many memories of that last game. I just tried to execute my game plan and save my bullpen a little bit."

Lee was selected 28th overall in the 2010 Draft and signed with the Dodgers after turning down a two-sport commitment at Louisiana State. He split last season between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Chattanooga, finishing 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 25 starts.

In two starts this season, he's allowed a pair of runs while striking out a dozen over 11 innings. He felt it's been a decent beginning to what likely will be a crucial year in his development.

"For the most part, I've been throwing the ball pretty well these last two starts," Lee added. "We had some miscues in the field that affected my pitch count last time, but I threw well, so it's definitely something to build on going on into the third start."

Lee, who had a promising career as a football quarterback coming out of McKinney High School, said he hasn't thought much about reaching Triple-A Albuquerque -- or beyond -- this summer.

"I just focus on what I'm doing, go out there and make quality starts and get those under my belt," he explained. "We'll see what happens after that. I just try to put our team in the best position of winning games."

Lee couldn't do everything on Wednesday, though. Chattanooga scored four runs in the eighth, getting RBI singles from Chris Jacobs, J.T. Wise and Rafael Ynoa and a sacrifice fly from No. 3 prospect Joc Pederson.

Smokies starter Dallas Beeler (0-2) was charged with two runs on six hits and a walk over six innings.

Danny Wild is an editor for