Monday, May 27 - GreenJackets 4, Crawdads 0
I witnessed a true first-round talent in this game.
Augusta starter Chris Stratton shut down Hickory over seven innings, allowing just one hit with no runs, three walks and eight strikeouts.
The Crawdads are on pace to set the South Atlantic League record for home runs in a season, but Stratton was having none of it in the series opener, allowing only a double to Nomar Mazara in the fifth.
Stratton was methodical, going fastball the first time through the Hickory lineup and establishing it to both sides of the plate. He added his breaking ball the second time through, and he added his changeup the third time through. Stratton gave Hickory multiple looks each time up and spotted them tremendously to both sides. He sequenced to near perfection and showed excellent pitchability, getting the most out of every pitch.
Stratton has been impressive in previous starts this season, but this is the first time I've seen him put it all together. The way he offered different looks and pitched with major league command is something rare to find in A-ball. He was a true first-round talent in this start.
Stratton was followed by left-handed reliever Steven Okert, who allowed one hit while striking out five in two innings. It was also Okert's best outing of the season, carving up the heart of the Crawdads lineup by striking out the side in the ninth. It was his first outing without a walk in his past three times out.
GreenJackets outfielder Rafael Rodriguez is making better contact every time I see him. He showed recognition by taking a fastball to the opposite field to drive home a run when Hickory starter Tyler Smith was struggling to spot inside, and he turned on a pitch over the plate by Smith for a home run next time up. Rodriguez has a homer in two of his past three games, and Goff said he has made adjustments to make it possible. We'll see if he's able to maintain the adjustments over the course of several weeks, which tends to be the test.
Notable Augusta lines:
Chris Stratton: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K, 9 swinging strikes, 9 ground balls, four fly balls, one line drive
Steven Okert: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Rafael Rodriguez: 3-4, HR, 2 RBI
Matt Duffy: 2-4, 2B
Mitch Delfino: 2-3
Trevor Brown: 1-4, RBI
Notable Hickory lines:
Tyler Smith: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Nick Vickerson: 1-4, 2B
Nomar Mazara: 1-4, 2B