While the Augusta GreenJackets are likely out of the first-half picture, they aren’t laying down in the final weeks before the All-Star break.
The GreenJackets are 5-2 in their past seven games and 6-4 in their past 10. They took three of four from Lexington over the weekend, scoring 19 runs in the three wins.
The GreenJackets entered the week 10½ games out of first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division at 27-27, the first time they’ve reached .500 since May 4. After a six-game losing streak in early May, Augusta has gone 12-7.
Savannah leads the division at 37-16, six games ahead of Asheville. The Sand Gnats have rolled through the first-half schedule and are 8-2 in their past 10 games.
The GreenJackets’ struggles against the Sand Gnats have continued this season, with Augusta going 2-5 in their season series so far. The two teams play seven games in four days June 12-15, the final series of the first half. They will play two doubleheaders in three days after two consecutive rainouts in Augusta this past week.
The final series could determine where the GreenJackets finish the first half. A good week could vault them ahead of Asheville for second place, but Greenville is only a half game behind Augusta, and Charleston is a game back.
DIFFERENT APPROACH: The past two trips to Augusta led to struggles for outfielder Rafael Rodriguez, but he has found a resurgence through 13 games this season.
Rodriguez, who was activated off the disabled list and made his 2014 debut May 14, entered the week hitting .289 with a .360 on-base percentage in 50 plate appearances. That includes three walks and only two strikeouts.
Rodriguez hit his first home run of the year Sunday at Lexington, recording three RBI. He has five hits and four RBI in his past three games.
The 21-year-old is on Augusta’s roster for the third time in his career. He hit .236 as an 18-year-old in 2011 and spent all of 2012 at short-season Salem-Keizer. He came back to Augusta in 2013 and hit .208 in limited action.
Rodriguez hasn’t been able to utilize his raw power in games yet in his career, and his bat tends to slow from batting practice to live pitching. He is serving more balls the other way through the first 13 games this season, and he’s taking more pitches in an effort to be more selective.
Whether the small sample is real remains to be seen, but Rodriguez is showing a different approach at the plate this year, which is a step in the right direction.
DOMINANT STREAK: GreenJackets reliever Carlos Alvarado was recently named the league’s pitcher of the week for May 19-25.
Alvarado threw six hitless innings with five strikeouts over two relief appearances at Greenville during that span. He has a 3.60 ERA with four walks to 26 strikeouts in 25 innings this season.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan has always produced low walk rates, and he carves up low-level hitting with good command and a strong breaking ball. After experiencing success in the first half with Augusta, he should move more rapidly through the system in the future.