Clayton Blackburn’s quality outing wasn’t enough to keep the Augusta GreenJackets from being pushed to the brink of elimination in a 2-1 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Sunday.
The GreenJackets (35-28, 67-65 overall) fell six games behind first-place Rome with seven to play thanks to the one-run loss.
A stretch of hits from Greensboro in the fourth inning and a missed opportunity by the GreenJackets with the bases loaded in the seventh was enough to decide the outcome.
“The double play in the seventh, that’s the difference right there,” manager Lipso Nava said. “It was a solid outing from Blackburn, but he didn’t have the run support he needed.”
Jeff Arnold gave Augusta an early lead with an RBI single in the second that drove in Devin Harris, who led off the inning with a double.
But Blackburn, who entered the game with the third-best ERA in the South Atlantic League, allowed two earned runs in the fourth on three hits. Josh Adams’ two-RBI double with the bases loaded did the damage.
“Just one inning where I left the ball up a little,” Blackburn said. “I was able to get back to it and keep throwing the ball right down the zone. It was a good outing overall.”
Blackburn (8-4) struck out the next two batters after giving up the lead and went on to retire eight in a row. He lasted eight innings, gave up five hits, walked none and struck out six and extended his league-leading strikeouts total to 143.
Greensboro starter Jose Urena (9-5) allowed one run on five hits and a walk over six innings for his fourth win in five decisions.
Augusta, which had won three in a row and nine of their last 10 before the loss, remained in third place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division and failed to gain ground on first-place Rome this series despite taking three of four from Greensboro.
After taking a break today for the final off day of the season, the GreenJackets will travel to Rome for a three-game series. Augusta must sweep the series and do the same when the team returns home for the last four games of the season in order to have a chance at staying in playoff contention.