The Augusta GreenJackets once again claimed victory by the slimmest of margins in a 3-2 win over the Asheville Tourists to open a nine-game homestand Monday at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
The GreenJackets, who held onto their share of first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, won their league-leading 19th one-run game. All four of their wins since last week’s all-star break have come by a single run.
“I feel like I’ve aged three more years,” said manager Lipso Nava. “It was a close game, an exciting game. It gets too close sometimes.”
The GreenJackets (4-1, 36-38) took three out of four in Savannah to start their second-half schedule and returned home to face the first-half division champion Tourists, who swept Augusta in a four-game series earlier this year.
Asheville (1-4, 48-27) fell behind early when Augusta scored first with three consecutive two-out hits in the fourth. Wes Hodges doubled down the left field line, Garrett Buechele reached on a bunt single and Brett Krill brought Hodges home with a single to center field.
A one-out triple to right field by Shawn Payne brought two more GreenJackets runs home in the fifth.
Asheville responded with a pair of runs in the sixth off Augusta lefty Edwin Escobar, who allowed just one earned run over seven innings. He scattered eight hits, walked none and struck out eight for his first win at home this season.
Escobar (3-4) gave the GreenJackets one more strong effort in what has become a string of consecutive quality outings from Augusta’s starters over the past week.
Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick and Adalberto Mejia all delivered wins in Savannah - Mejia’s six no-hit innings earned him the league’s pitcher of the week honors - and Escobar piled on with his first win since May.
“We’re really happy with what they’ve been giving us,” Nava said. “That’s what we’ve been asking of them and now they’re starting to do it.”
Reliever Jacob Dunnington struck out three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless eighth, and Cody Hall reclaimed the league lead for saves with his 13th after getting out of a jam in the ninth. With two on and one out, Hall struck out Rosell Herrera and catcher Jeff Arnold threw out Chandler Laurent trying to steal third to end the game.
Hall, the only Augusta representative at last week’s all-star game, said he has fed off the team’s one-run success.
“I love it,” he said. “I’ve been a closer ever since I started pitching, and I like the pressure. Obviously tonight wasn’t perfect with the leadoff double, but there was the strikeout then Arnold getting the guy at third was huge.”
Asheville starter Daniel Winkler (8-5) allowed three runs on nine hits and a walk. He struck out five but lost for the third time in his last four starts.