Thursday, July 24 - 7 p.m.
Savannah Sand Gnats (64-33)
RHP Logan Taylor (2014 A: 11 IP, 3.27 ERA, 5.13 FIP, 28 K%, 10 BB%, .321 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (48-53)
LHP Luis Ysla (2014 A: 84.2 IP, 2.34 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 23.7 K%, 9.9 BB%, .277 BABIP)
Savannah took the series opener against Augusta behind a strong return outing by Robert Whalen, who allowed two runs on three hits in 5.2 innings. The Sand Gnats backed him with four runs between the seventh and ninth innings.
Whalen made his first start for Savannah in nearly three months after sustaining a cut on his right hand that led to an infection. While his command understandably wavered in the outing, he showed solid feel for varying fastball movements and a good slider/curve combination.
The Sand Gnats have gotten another pitcher back from another serious injury with the return of Logan Taylor from Tommy John surgery. He failed to go two full innings against Rome on June 27, 2013, getting pulled with what was determined a torn elbow ligament. He had the surgery and reappeared with the Gulf Coast League Mets nearly one year later on June 20.
After three starts for the GCL Mets, Taylor returned to Savannah July 9 at home against the GreenJackets, allowing four earned and five total runs with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings. He fared better the second time out, which was his most recent outing July 16, allowing two unearned runs with eight strikeouts in 5.1 innings against a lethal Asheville lineup.
Taylor was drafted in the 11th round in 2012 out of East Oklahoma State College. The 22-year-old is a physically maxed, big-bodied right-hander at 6-5, 230 pounds. He throws from a high release point and torques his upper body and head hard upon release. It's a high-effort delivery that could mean bullpen duty in the future.
Like Whalen, Taylor has the ability to vary his fastball movement between sinking and cutting at similar velo in the low-90s. He adds a hard, downward curveball that flashes plus when the spin is tight. His feel for the pitch has been inconsistent.
Luis Ysla has settled in as one of the best pitchers in the South Atlantic League by ERA. He's first among active pitchers at 2.34. The top arm is Greensboro's Sean Townsley, who is currently on the disabled list.
Ysla was very good last time out against Kannapolis, allowing four hits over 6.2 scoreless innings, including six strikeouts. The left-hander has done a tremendous job to settle in at Augusta and avoid walks. He quickened his pace with runners on last time out and showed better command from the stretch.
Facing another advanced arm, the GreenJackets again have their hands full against the Sand Gnats. Augusta is 6-9 against Savannah this season. The in-state opponents have a history of tough series together, including a first-round matchup in the playoffs last year that went to the Sand Gnats.
***Since July 11, Augusta is 3-8. The GreenJackets lost three straight at Greenville at that time, which started what has become of their worse ruts this season. They have lost five of their last six.
***After losing five straight, Savannah has won four in a row. The Sand Gnats most recently swept Lexington three straight before taking the series opener at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
***Since suffering one of his worst starts this season against Greenville on July 4, Ysla has allowed two runs with nine strikeouts in his past 11.2 innings.
Chris Lofton, cf
Ryder Jones, 3b
Ty Ross, 1b
Tyler Horan, rf
Jeremy Sy, dh
Ryan Jones, 2b
Eric Sim, c
Rando Moreno, ss
Cristian Paulino, lf
Luis Ysla, sp
Yeixon Ruiz, ss
Champ Stuart, cf
Dominic Smith, 1b
Matt Oberste, dh
Nelfi Zapata, 3b
Victor Cruzado, rf
Colton Plaia, c
Stefan Sabol, lf
Jonathan Johnson, 2b
Logan Taylor, sp