A beaten and frustrated Augusta GreenJackets team left town last week on a five-game losing streak. They will return to Lake Olmstead Stadium tonight with a bit of momentum after finally finding success on the road.
The GreenJackets took two out of three in a rain-shortened series in Greenville, S.C. They will open a seven-game homestand tonight with a four-game series against the Kannapolis Intimidators.
“We had a pretty good road trip,” Augusta manager Lipso Nava said. “The bats came alive, and the pitching was better.”
The GreenJackets offense, which averaged just one run a game over the losing streak, tripled that average in Greenville. The team posted season highs for runs scored and hits in a 9-8 win in the series opener.
Augusta benefited from improved pitching after leading the South Atlantic League in walks allowed a week ago. The GreenJackets walked just three batters in Thursday’s win but still offered 13 free passes over the remaining two games.
Nava said he saw improvement from his pitchers but expects better outings to come.
“They’re still making adjustments,” he said. “I saw more of them pounding the zone last series, and that’s something to continue on.”
SET CLOSER: Cody Hall picked up two saves on the road. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up two earned runs on two hits in a rocky ninth inning Thursday but had a three-run cushion entering the inning.
Hall settled down the next night and allowed just one hit in a scoreless ninth for his fourth save of the season, already matching his total in 23 appearances last year at Salem-Keizer.
LET’S PLAY TWO: Sunday’s rainout in Greenville was the second of the week for the GreenJackets, who also saw the final game of their homestand washed away Wednesday.
The home rainout likely won’t be made up because Augusta and Charleston aren’t scheduled to meet again in the first half of the season. However, Sunday’s rain could mean a doubleheader in Augusta later this season.
The GreenJackets will not play in Greenville the rest of the first half, but the Drive are scheduled to come to Augusta twice.
The Jackets will play host to Greenville for four games May 10-13 and again June 14-17, and the two teams could decide to play a doubleheader in either series.
Because the series in June is the final set of games before the All-Star break, the two teams could also wait to see how the standings look entering the final day and only make up the game if it has playoff implications.
NEW OPPONENTS: This week’s homestand will give the GreenJackets (7-9) their first look at the Northern Division. The Kannapolis Intimidators (6-11) enter tonight’s series opener with a six-game losing streak. The Hagerstown Suns (8-8) come to Augusta on Saturday.
FINALLY HOME: Tonight’s game will be the home debut of GreenJackets outfielder Shawn Payne.
The Middle Georgia College product missed the first homestand because of a dislocated finger on his right hand, but he was activated off the disabled list in time for the road trip.
Payne, the team’s leading hitter before the injury, went 2 for 4 with two RBI Saturday night in Greenville with a double and a home run. He enters tonight’s game batting .357 with three stolen bases.