A home game with little offense has been rare recently for the Augusta GreenJackets, but Sunday night's 7-0 loss to the Hickory Crawdads at Lake Olmstead Stadium had an air of familiarity to it.
Hickory starter Roman Mendez once again dominated Augusta with a three-hit shutout over six innings. The 21-year-old Dominican beat the GreenJackets for the third time this year and picked up his team-leading ninth win.
"He's got what it takes for a guy to make it to the big leagues," GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava said of the pitching prospect acquired by the Rangers last summer when they traded Jarrod Saltalamachia to the Red Sox. "He's got command of his pitches, he can do anything with his changeup and throw it in any count."
Augusta's 10th shutout came in a five-hit effort, resulting in a split of the four-game series. The second-place GreenJackets will head to Savannah today for a four-game series with Augusta 3 1/2 games behind the Sand Gnats in the South Atlantic League's Southern Division standings.
The GreenJackets (19-16, 50-55) won't carry much momentum into the key series after falling to the Northern Division's top team.
"It was kind of a flat night tonight," Nava said. "There's still more games to come and more series to split or win. We just have to put this game in the past and focus on the series against Savannah."
Starter Mike Kickham (2-7) was peppered for six earned runs on 10 hits and four walks. He was pulled with no outs in the fifth after allowing the first three batters to reach base.
One night after the Augusta bullpen was forced into extra work after starter Taylor Rogers was pulled in the second, Edward Concepcion was brought in for a long-relief effort. He walked four and allowed one run in three innings. Drew Bowlin threw perfect innings in the eighth and ninth.
Mendez (9-1) struck out seven and threw six scoreless innings.
Hickory's Christian Villanueva went 3 for 4 with three singles and an RBI, while Josh Richmond and Selen Alejandro had two doubles each. Lane Braxton went 3 for 4 with an RBI.
GreenJackets third baseman Josh Mazzola saw his 10-game hitting streak come to an end. Rafael Rodriguez's streak ended at six games.