Just when it seemed the Augusta GreenJackets had fallen into in inescapable funk, the team made a 180-degree turn this week by sweeping one of the top teams in the South Atlantic League.
The GreenJackets (25-33) entered the series on a five-game losing streak and already eliminated from the first-half division title race, but one-run wins Tuesday and Wednesday set up Thursday’s 2-0 victory to cap the series sweep over the Northern Division first-place Greensboro Grasshoppers.
The Augusta arms, led by starters Clayton Blackburn, Chris Marlowe and Kyle Crick, held the league’s third-ranked hitting team to just one run in the three-game series.
“The pitching was the hero for this series,” manager Lipso Nava said. “The clutch hits came through when we needed them, but the pitching was what held on for us. ”
Crick (2-4) allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings in Thursday’s win. The 19-year-old right-hander and 49th overall pick in last year’s draft struggled with location earlier this year but found the strike zone a much more inviting place in his 11th start.
“They come together,” he said. “When you’re throwing more strikes people swing at them. Most of those (strikeouts) were accidents.”
Ben Thomas, who won the game Wednesday night with a walk-off double in the ninth, was the offensive hero again Thursday, driving the game’s only runs. He went 3 for 4 with an RBI double in the fourth and RBI single in the sixth to send the Lake Olmstead Stadium crowd of 4,307 home happy.
“It’s always fun when the pitchers give up one run in three games,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to them. We faced three really good arms from (Greensboro) as well, but we executed better than they did and that’s why we won.”
The GreenJackets bullpen shutout the Grasshoppers (40-20) over the series, preserving a pair of one-run leads in the first two games and a two-run cushion Thursday. Jacob Dunnington and Kyle Vazquez, both added to the roster last week, each threw a scoreless inning of relief. Vazquez picked up his second save.
Greensboro starter Josh Hodges (4-3) took the loss by giving up two runs on 10 hits and a walk over six innings.