Born in Ohio and raised in the South, I'm a diehard Cleveland sports fan. I pass on NASCAR, play any sport but soccer and can't understand why the NFL is so undervalued in the Southeast. My favorite sport is basketball. I was a sports writer at the Columbia County News-Times from 2005 to 2007 before becoming Minor League Sports Writer at the Augusta Chronicle in December 2007.
Posted August 25, 2012 12:19 am

GreenJackets Gameday: Heart and Soul

Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) vs. Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins)

WHEN: today, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Lake Olmstead Stadium: directions
WEATHER: Sunny and 82 degrees at game time with no chance of rain: forecast
PROMOTION: 80s Night and Sparkling Saturdays. Dress in your best 1980s-era outfit and enjoy a postgame fireworks show.
TICKETS: Start at $9. Call the box office at (706) 922-WINS or visit
IN-GAME UPDATES: On Twitter (@BillyByler) or receive text alerts on your phone.
STANDINGS: Augusta 34-27, 66-64 (3rd SAL Southern); Greensboro 30-30, 76-54 (t4th SAL Northern)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Augusta leads the season series 5-0 and the current series 2-0.
PROBABLE STARTERS: GreenJackets LHP Edwin Escobar (6-7, 3.24) vs. Grasshoppers RHP Jake Esch (1-1, 3.86).


GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava told me after the current series opener that pitching is the heart and soul of his team, and the arms proved it again Friday night with another shutout effort. Augusta has now won eight of its last nine games and 11 of its last 13.


Most importantly, this Augusta team is still hanging on in the hunt for that final playoff spot. The GreenJackets gained a game Friday night. They now sit 4.5 games out of first with nine to play. That may not be as insurmountable as it seems considering the GreenJackets will play first-place Rome three times next week.


The other playoff chance for Augusta also got better with Friday's results. If Asheville, the first-half division champ, also wins the second half, then the GreenJackets will get in if they have the next best overall record. Asheville now sits 3.5 games out of first with nine to play, and Augusta is just two games behind in the wild card race.


Not enough numbers? The GreenJackets are also two games above .500 (66-64) for the first time since April 12 when a win over Savannah improved them to 5-3 overall. It's been a long year.


Edwin Escobar, who allowed just one hit in 8.2 shutout innings in his last outing, gets the start tonight. The tall lefty is one of three Augusta starters ranked in the top six in the league in ERA. Kyle Cricks leads everyone with a 2.30 ERA, Clayton Blackburn ranks third at 2.55 (and first with 137 strikeouts) and Escobar's 3.24 is good for sixth.


Georgia Tech fans may recognize tonight's starter for Greensboro. Right-hander Jake Esch wasn't much of a pitcher back then. He did some bullpen work, but mainly started at second base for the Yellow Jackets in 2010. He started in all 63 games that year and hit .319.