Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) vs. Greenville Drive (Red Sox)
WHEN: today, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Lake Olmstead Stadium: directions
WEATHER: Sunny and 75 degrees at game time with no chance of rain: forecast
PROMOTION: Thirsty Thursdays. Small drinks are $1 each.
TICKETS: Start at $7. Call the box office at (706) 922-WINS or visit GreenJacketsBaseball.com.
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1340 AM WYNF
IN-GAME UPDATES: On Twitter (@BillyByler) or receive text alerts on your phone.
STANDINGS: Augusta 14-16, t4th SAL Southern; Greenville 14-17, 6th SAL Southern
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Greenville leads season series 2-1.
PROBABLE STARTERS: GreenJackets RHP Clayton Blackburn (0-2, 5.85) vs. Drive RHP Jason Garcia (0-1, 4.57)
Despite losing 4 of 7 on the road, there are plenty of reasons for GreenJackets fans to be optimistic as the team starts an eight-game homestand tonight. First, Augusta won the last 2 of 3 thanks to strong starting pitching, which has been an extremely rare site so far this season. Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar brought strong efforts, got wins and kept the bullpen from overuse. Throw in Wednesday's scheduled off day, and the Augusta arms will be completely rested for this series.
The second reason for GreenJackets fans to cheer is the return of Jeff Arnold. Last year's star catcher, who comes from San Jose just in time for the homestand, was tearing it up at the Advanced-A level with a .455 batting average in 11 games. But those 11 games made up just one-third of San Jose's games, meaning Arnold wasn't getting much playing time. He'll get much more in Augusta with Eric Sim now headed back to Arizona and Joe Staley struggling at the plate.
Arnold may be scratching his head a bit after finding himself back in Augusta despite going 15 for 33 in San Jose with four doubles and eight RBI in 11 games. His demotion didn't come because of his performance. It's just tough being a 26th-round pick from 2010 when the organization already has a 25-year-old Buster Posey starting in San Francisco and last year's second-round pick Andrew Susac getting most of the playing time in San Jose.
So Arnold's plight is Augusta's gain. He didn't exactly destroy South Atlantic League pitching a year ago (.213 in 80 games), but his reputation for calling pitches behind the plate was considered a staff-wide asset. Shawn Sanford, the Sally League's most oustanding pitcher of the year in 2011, told me if he were pitching in Game 7 of the World Series, he'd pick Arnold over any other catcher - minor or major league - to be there with him. That's high praise.
What I've heard over and over again about Arnold is his ability to call pitches, which should be an incredible value this year. The GreenJackets have several young pitchers, including tonight's starter Clayton Blackburn, who just got out of high school and probably don't have much experience with deciding which pitch to throw. Arnold will help tremendously in that area.
All this to say, I'm not even sure Arnold will play tonight. I'm told he got into Augusta late Wednesday night, so he may be given a day off to recover from the long trip before taking the field.
Greenville will be on the field tonight looking for a fifth consecutive win. Granted, those wins came against Rome, the worst team in the Sally League.