After strong pitching carried the Augusta GreenJackets through much of the series, the arms took the blame in Sunday’s finale in a 5-4 loss to the Savannah Sand Gnats.
Augusta’s relievers squandered two one-run leads over the final three innings, negating another improved hitting performance from a team that had been struggling at the plate.
“We’re facing a pretty good team, and we were making our pitches,” manager Lipso Nava said. “The luck just went the other way when our guys were competing.”
Reliever Paul Davis inherited a 3-2 lead with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh but gave up a single to Aderlin Rodriguez to lose the advantage.
Augusta’s Brett Krill, who had grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first and struck out in the third and sixth, redeemed himself in the eighth by reclaiming the lead with a two-out, bases-loaded single.
Davis lost the lead again in the ninth, surrendering two runs on two-out, bases-loaded singles to Albert Cordero and Greg Pron.
Davis, Augusta’s new closer after South Atlantic League saves leader Cody Hall went down with an oblique strain, was one of Nava’s limited options out of the bullpen, which was used heavily throughout the series.
“We’re short in the pen, and that’s catching up to us,” Nava said. “But I like the effort I saw out of the guys. They never quit and kept competing.”
The GreenJackets put runners at first and second with one out in the bottom of the ninth and forced a pitching change, but Savannah closer T.J. Chism struck out Elliott Blair and got a pop-up from Jesus Galindo to strand both runners.
The late loss meant a series split with Savannah and a heart-breaking ending to what would have been the GreenJackets’ first series win since April.
Augusta starter Edwin Escobar lasted 62/3 innings and gave up three runs, all earned, on eight hits, four walks and five strikeouts.
Savannah got six innings from starter Jacob DeGrom, who gave up three earned runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out six.
Davis (2-2) took the loss, while Savannah right-hander Chasen Bradford (2-0) got the win in two innings of relief.
Chism picked up his eighth save – his second in two nights – by retiring both batters he faced in the ninth.