A pair of strikeout artists painted the corners to near perfection in a highly-touted matchup Friday night.
Starters Martin Agosta and Rafael De Paula lived up to the billing as the pitchers with the best strikeout rates in the South Atlantic League, each holding their opponent scoreless over five innings.
Charleston RiverDogs catcher Peter O’Brien broke a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the sixth to beat Agosta and the Augusta GreenJackets 2-1 at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Charleston starter De Paula entered with a 40 percent strikeout rate, the best in Minor League Baseball. He was limited to a season-low three strikeouts over five scoreless innings against Augusta, but held the GreenJackets to just one hit and few hard-hit balls.
De Paula threw a mid-90s fastball with sinking action, paired with a sharp curveball that helped lead to six swinging strikes.
“I think the main reason he’s successful is he’s feeling comfortable; he’s realizing he can pitch,” Charleston manager Al Pedrique said. “He’s realizing he can be successful if he continues working on his mechanics. I think that’s paying off.”
Augusta starter Agosta, who ranked second in the league in strikeout rate at 33 percent, allowed two runs on four hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out six. He induced 11 swinging strikes while going seven innings for the second consecutive start.
“He really commands his fastball well,” GreenJackets first baseman Joe Rapp said. “He’s got great offspeed stuff. He mixes it really well and keeps hitters off balance. He’s been outstanding.”
A hit-by-pitch led off the sixth and came around to score on a blast to left field by O’Brien on an 0-2 pitch by Agosta. He bounced back to strike out two in a perfect seventh to finish his outing.
The GreenJackets broke up the shutout on consecutive doubles in the seventh, with Rapp providing the RBI hit. They put two in scoring position in the eighth but stranded both.