Saturday, July 20 - 7:05 p.m.
Asheville Tourists (12-14, 50-44)
Jayson Aquino (11 IP, 2.45 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 16.7 K%, 7.1 BB%, .313 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (12-13, 50-44)
Matthew Lujan (36.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 19.5 K%, 5.8 BB%, .348 BABIP)
The GreenJackets and Tourists have had nearly identical seasons record-wise, but they have reached this point in much different ways.
Not surprisingly, Asheville owns the best batting average in the league at .280 while hitting the second most home runs with 81. The Tourists have been extremely aggressive on the basepaths, stealing a league-best 170 bases (34 more than the next highest) and getting caught 75 times.
Meanwhile, Augusta owns the fourth-best ERA in the league at 3.55. The GreenJackets have the second-highest strikeout total while throwing the second-most innings.
While anything can happen in a single baseball game, the tide might turn in a different way in this game. Asheville sends Jayson Aquino to the mound in his third start in the league. The 20-year-old has allowed three earned runs in 11 innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Aquino is ranked ninth in the Colorado Rockies system by Baseball America. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and expectedly breezed through the rookie and short-season leagues. He began 2013 with short-season Tri-City and allowed eight runs in 23 innings.
Aquino is a left-hander with a fastball that sits 88-89 and touches low-90s. He thrives off two solid secondary offerings in a curveball and changeup that he can throw for strikes, and Baseball America says both could become plus pitches. How often he turns to those two pitches instead of the fastball will be worth watching against a GreenJackets lineup that can fall behind in counts.
Augusta starts fellow left-hander Matt Lujan, who has been extremely dependable for Augusta to the point of earning a current rotation spot. Lujan allowed one run on seven hits over seven innings against Charleston last time out. He won't blow hitters away with swing-and-miss stuff, but he has consistently gained strength in starts.
Perhaps the biggest key for Lujan is holding runners. The Tourists are the best in the league at stealing, but being left-handed works in Lujan's favor. This is especially true as he isn't a strikeout pitcher and can't depend on whiffs as much with runners on.
The two best hitters in the SAL according to wOBA and wRC+ belong to Asheville's Rosell Herrera and Tom Murphy, both with identical .458 and 185 marks. Herrera has consistently been one of the best hitters in the league all season, hitting .362/.443/.576 with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases at shortstop. Murphy is hitting .308/.403/.633 with 17 home runs from behind the plate. It's rare to see this kind of production from more than one prime position on the same team.