Another round of help from higher up arrived during the GreenJackets’ homestand last week.
Steve Decker, the San Francisco Giants’ coordinator of minor league hitting, made his second trip of the season as the latest instructor from the club to lend his expertise to a struggling squad.
The GreenJackets entered the week ranked last in the South Atlantic League with a .213 team batting average. Decker spent two series with the team last month. Farm director Fred Stanley and coordinator of minor
league instruction Shane Turner have also spent time in Augusta this season trying to help fix the offensive issues.
Decker, the organization’s former Triple-A manager, targeted the hitters’ mental approach the last time he was in Augusta. This time around, he gave the team more specific goals.
“The magic number for us is to score five runs,” outfielder Brett Krill said. “And that’s just timely hitting and more of it.”
Through 47 games, the team has scored five or more runs just 12 times and hasn’t hit the mark since May 10. The two wins in a series split with Savannah over the weekend saw strong pitching carry the squad in 3-2 and 2-1 wins.
SPLIT SERIES: Manager Lipso Nava noted after Sunday’s series finale loss that the team might have played better in its two losses than its two wins.
The GreenJackets managed just five runs combined in one-run victories to start the series, but scored four runs each in losses Saturday and Sunday.
Savannah’s seven runs on 15 hits made the difference Saturday, and poor relief pitching from Augusta on Sunday surrendered a pair of late one-run leads.
“That’s the way the game is sometimes,” Nava said. “We’re hitting the ball better but can’t win. That’s what happens, and you just have to keep playing.”
OUT AGAIN: One of the most consistent bats in the GreenJackets lineup is once again unavailable because of injury.
Outfielder Shawn Payne, who entered Monday’s game leading the team in hitting (.284), on base percentage (.407) and slugging percentage (.414), was placed on the disabled list last week for the second time this season.
Payne dislocated a finger and missed the second week of the season. This time he’s dealing with a thumb injury on the opposite hand.
The 22-year-old Middle Georgia College product, who is 14 for 14 in stolen base attempts, won’t be eligible to come off the disabled list until Thursday.
GLOVE LOCKDOWN: Despite the hitting problems and inconsistent pitching, the GreenJackets have exceled greatly in another area of the game to the point where they’re approaching an 18-year-old South Atlantic League record.
The team entered Monday’s contest with six consecutive games of error-free ball. The league record of seven in a row was set in July 1994 by the Charleston (W.Va.) Wheelers.
PROSPECT PROGRESS: Though Friday’s start resulted in a no decision, right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick hit a personal goal for the first time this season.
The 19-year-old prospect recorded no walks in four innings of work. His start began a little rocky with several groundballs finding
their way through holes in the infield for singles, but Crick said he didn’t let it rattle him.
“I just told myself to keep throwing strikes,” he said. “It’s a positive I didn’t walk anybody, and that was a big thing for me. That’s the first time I’ve done that this year.”
Crick, the 49th overall pick in last year’s draft, allowed just one run on eight hits and struck out eight for his best outing
since six scoreless innings May 6.
MONTHLY AWARDS: The GreenJackets Diamond Club, made up of season ticket holders, handed out its April pitcher and player of the month awards after Saturday’s game.
Payne was named the player of the month after leading the team with a .340 batting average, five doubles, eight RBI and nine stolen bases over 16 games.
Reliever Paul Davis earned pitcher of the month honors after posting a 2-0 record and 2.25 ERA in seven April appearances.