Tuesday, July 15 - 7 p.m.
Kannapolis Intimidators (43-49)
LHP Jeffrey McKenzie (2014 A: 15.1 IP, 5.28 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 12.7 K%, 4.8 BB%, .327 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (45-48)
LHP Steven Messner (2014 A: 64.1 IP, 4.06 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 17.9 K%, 7.2 BB%, .363 BABIP)
The past two series are a good example of Augusta's season. The GreenJackets took two of three against a Savannah team that ran away with the first-half title and has shut down Augusta this season. They carried it to a Greenville team facing a losing streak of epic proportions and won the first game. The Drive then snapped their 17-game losing streak and took three of four from the GreenJackets.
It's been an up-and-down battle for Augusta this year. The team has struggled to reach .500 for much of the season, and the past two series are a good indication why. The GreenJackets haven't been able to maintain good performances for more than a few days at the time.
After a disappointing end to a long road trip, they return home for three against Kannapolis before hitting the road again. Somehow, Augusta is facing Kannapolis for the first time this season, and it's mid-July. The Intimidators are 14-11 in the second half compared to the GreenJackets' 11-14. Kannapolis is 43-49 overall.
The first pitching matchup features two left-handers without prospect pedigrees. Steven Messner worked his way from independent ball through the Augusta bullpen to the rotation in place of the injured Keury Mella. After throwing eight shutout innings in his first start as a member of the rotation, Messner has struggled to nine runs allowed in his past 12 innings over two starts.
Messner has maintained low walk numbers, but his command must be sharp to get by. He throws a fastball around 90 with a reliable breaking ball, enough to keep hitters off balance when he has location.
Jeffrey McKenzie was drafted in the 28th round by the White Sox in 2013 out of Cal State-Bakersfield. He's a smallish 23-year-old lefty making his fourth start in the South Atlantic League after two starts and 11.2 innings in the short-season Pioneer League to start the season. Not much is written on McKenzie, so I'm coming in blind for this outing.
Augusta catcher Ty Ross is coming in on a torrid stretch, hitting .500 over his past six games (10 for 20). He has four extra-base hits and eight RBI over that span. As I wrote in Tuesday's notebook, Ross is showing signs of tapping into the prospect within. Any development with the bat would go a long way toward establishing his prospect status. He has popped around 1.8 and has excellent catch-and-throw skills. Augusta pitchers rave about his game calling and ability to handle a staff.
While Ross was recently moved higher in the order (third, mostly), fellow catcher Eric Sim has also received more plate appearances and a more established spot in the lineup, usually at DH. Sim is on a five-game hitting streak that includes three extra-base hits and eight RBI.
***Despite the current three-game losing streak, Augusta is 8-5 in July. The GreenJackets are 11-14 in the second half, eight games behind Asheville.
***McKenzie was one of five from Cal State-Bakersfield to get drafted in 2013. Six of his nine runs allowed in the SAL came in one start against Hagerstown on July 4.
***Wednesday's probable starter for Kannapolis, James Dykstra, was assigned to Advanced-A Winston-Salem on Tuesday.
***Kannapolis has lost five in a row coming into the series. The Intimidators last won July 8 at Greensboro. They were swept four straight by Asheville most recently.
Cristian Paulino, rf
Ryder Jones, 3b
Ty Ross, dh
Tyler Horan, cf
Jeremy Sy, 2b
Eric Sim, c
Rafael Rodriguez, lf
Gabriel Cornier, 1b
Rando Moreno, ss
Steven Messner, sp
Adam Engel, cf
Christian Stringer, 2b
Trey Michalczewski, 3b
Danny Hayes, 1b
Jacob Morris, rf
Brett Austin, c
Carl Thomore, lf
Nolan Early, dh
Ryan Leonards, ss
Jeffrey McKenzie, sp