Santana, Sand Gnats beat GreenJackets

Savannah, Augusta fight for title today
Savannah starter Johan Santana, on a rehab assignment from the New York Mets, gave up an unearned run in three innings of work in the Sand Gnats' win.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — More than 3,400 people arrived at Historic Grayson Stadium on Friday night to see New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana make a rehab start against the Augusta Green­Jackets.


Thanks to the efforts of Santana’s temporary teammates, those fans can come back for another game tonight.

Blake Forsythe hit a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning to score Albert Cordero from first base and break a late tie, and the Savannah Sand Gnats claimed a 3-2 win, evening the series at 1 and forcing a deciding Game 3 tonight in Savannah.

Santana allowed an unearned run in three innings in his third minor league rehab assignment as part of his recovery from shoulder surgery a year ago. The two-time Cy Young Award winner struggled with control at times and his fastball didn’t break 90 mph.

Augusta’s Chris Lofton and Jeff Ar­nold got singles off Santana, and Devin Harris drew a walk. But the 30-year-old Venezuelan said he felt like the outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt like everything is starting to come along very good,” he said. “I still have some work to do, but overall I feel like I’m making progress from one start to the other, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Santana left the game trailing 1-0, but a pair of throwing errors from Augusta starter Shawn Sanford allowed runs in the fourth and fifth innings to give Savannah the lead.

The GreenJackets tied the game in the seventh on Bobby Haney’s RBI single to score Arnold.

But Forsythe, who came in for designated hitter Juan Gamboa, drove a 2-2 pitch into left field for the game-winning double. Savannah manager Ryan Ellis plugged Forsythe in before Augusta manager Lipso Nava brought in reliever Jose Valdez to face him.

“It worked out,” Ellis said. “I just had a feeling for Blake. He’s usually in the lineup, and I went on a feeling not putting him in the lineup today and I went on another feeling putting him in. It’s just one of those things. He was in the forefront of my mind, and I stuck with my gut. It’s a credit to him coming off the bench.”

Taylor Whitenton, the originally scheduled Savannah starter, followed Santana and held Augusta to one run over 3 1/3 innings. He left runners at second and third in the sixth by striking out Ben Thomas and Harris.

Adam Kolarek got the win for Savan­nah with 1 2/3 of scoreless relief, while Hamilton Bennett threw a perfect ninth inning for the save.

Phil McCormick got the loss for the GreenJackets, who fell short in the one-run game thanks to three unearned runs and will have to regroup quickly for the series-deciding game.

“There were no distractions. We beat ourselves tonight,” Nava said. “The three errors were costly errors. We have to come at them (today), and whatever happened (Friday night) is over and it’s in the past. We have to look forward to (today’s) game. It’s a do-or-die thing. We have to be ready.”

Sand Gnats 3 GreenJackets 2

PLAY OF THE GAME: Savannah pinch-hitter Blake Forsythe drove a 2-2 pitch off reliever Jose Valdez into left field to score Albert Cordero from first for what proved to be the game-winning run.

STAR OF THE GAME: Taylor Whitenton relieved Mets rehabbing starter Johan Santana and struck out six batters in 3⅓ innings.

NEXT: South Atlantic League Southern Divisional Series Game 3, Augusta at Savannah, 6:05 p.m. today