The Augusta GreenJackets failed in their bid for a second consecutive 90-win season Monday afternoon, falling 10-4 to the Kannapolis Intimidators on the road.
Still, the outcome didn't matter much.
Augusta's Tyler Graham went 4-for-4 with two RBI, but the Intimidators scored three runs in the second and three in the fourth off Augusta starter Clayton Tanner.
Tanner (12-8), Augusta's No. 4 starter most of the year, has allowed six or more runs in his past two starts.
For the second consecutive year, the GreenJackets, who own a 181-98 record the past two regular seasons, turn their sights to the South Atlantic League playoffs, which begin Wednesday.
Augusta (89-51, 39-31 second half) won the SAL's Southern Division first-half championship in June with a dominant 50-20 record. The GreenJackets will face the Columbus Catfish, the division's second-half champion, in Game 1 of the best-of-three Southern Division championship series Wednesday in Columbus.
The GreenJackets, who swept the Rome Braves in last year's divisional series before falling to Lakewood in the SAL championship, finished with the league's best pitching staff. Their team ERA rose from 2.98 before Monday to finish at 3.02, still tops by far.
Columbus went 41-24 (82-53 overall) to win the second-half championship by three games over Charleston. With a 3.61 team ERA, the Catfish have the league's No. 2 staff behind the GreenJackets.
The Catfish were one of the only teams in the SAL with a winning record against Augusta, prevailing in eight of 12 matchups. Augusta was held to two runs or fewer in nine of the 12 meetings.
"It was a good race all the way down to the end," Columbus manager Jim Morrison told MILB.com.
"(The GreenJackets) have outstanding defense. Very strong group of pitchers - they've been exceptional all year. The plan is to go in there and play defense just as well as them. It's probably going to come down to fundamental baseball."
ROTATION: The GreenJackets are expected to start SAL Pitcher of the Year Kevin Pucetas, a right-hander with a 15-4 record and a league-leading 1.86 ERA, in Game 1.
Ben Snyder (16-5, 2.09), the league's top left-hander likely will start Game 2 in Augusta, with the starter for Game 3, if necessary, to be determined. Right-hander Adam Cowart (14-7) ranks third in the SAL with a 2.39 ERA.
Columbus' Heath Rollins (17-4, 2.54) and Jeremy Hellickson (13-3, 2.67) rank fourth and fifth behind the Augusta trio.
LEADERS: Augusta shortstop Emmanuel Burriss finished in the top five in hitting with a .321 average and third in stolen bases with 51.
First baseman Brett Pill's 47 doubles led the league and were eight off the SAL record. Snyder's 16 wins ranked No. 3 and his 147 strikeouts tied for third. Pucetas' 15 wins were fourth. Juan Trinidad's 18 saves tied for third.
Third baseman Ryan Rohlinger's 18 homers led the team, three ahead of Bobby Felmy, and Pill's 91 RBI led the team.
ATTENDANCE: The GreenJackets will finish 10th in the 16-team league in home attendance, up two spots from last year.
The GreenJackets drew a franchise-record 177,780 in 68 games at Lake Olmstead Stadium, averaging 2,614 per game.
Southern Division championship series
Augusta GreenJackets vs. Columbus Catfish
Wednesday: Augusta at Columbus
Friday: Columbus at Augusta
Saturday: Columbus at Augusta (if necessary)
Tickets: Lake Olmstead Stadium box office, (706) 736-7889, www.greenjacketsbaseball.com
Radio: WRDW-AM 1630
Key players: Augusta-RHP Kevin Pucetas, LHP Ben Snyder, RHP Adam Cowart, SS Emmanuel Burriss, 1B Brett Pill, RF Bobby Felmy; Columbus-RHP Heath Rollins, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, LF Ryan Royster, CF Desmond Jennings.