Augusta’s pitchers couldn’t stand the heat Friday night in a 6-2 series-opening loss to the Savannah Sand Gnats.
With an official first-pitch temperature of 103 degrees, the GreenJackets fell behind early when a Garrett Buechele fielding error and three consecutive walks from starting pitcher Chris Marlowe gave Savannah a 2-0 lead.
Marlowe (3-5) suffered his shortest outing of his career. The 19-year-old right-hander and 49th overall pick in last year’s draft was pulled after just two innings. He walked four, gave up a hit and allowed two unearned runs.
“He was maxed out on his pitching count for (the second) inning,” manager Lipso Nava said. “So after 30 or something pitches in one inning we’re not going to send him back out there anymore.”
Reliever DeMondre Arnold took over in the third and allowed just one run over four innings, but Savannah (2-7, 43-33) got five consecutive hits off him and Andrew Berger in a three-run seventh inning that blew the game open.
No. 9 hitter Ishmael Tijerina led off the seventh with a single to right field and the top three hitters in Savannah’s lineup followed with singles to score Tijerina.
Dustin Lawley, the second batter Berger faced, brought two more runs in with a double to the left field wall.
Berger settled down and struck out seven of the next nine batters, including all three in a perfect ninth.
But the GreenJackets (6-3, 38-40) failed to muster a comeback, going down in order in the eighth and stranding a runner at first in the ninth.
“I think the heat might have been a factor for both teams,” Nava said. “But that’s what we’ve been telling them. That Augusta heat is coming. You have to be ready for it.”
Savannah starter Michael Fulmer (5-4) got the win allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits and two walks in six innings.
He struck out six to beat the GreenJackets for the first time in three starts this season at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Jose Flores went 0 for 4 but drove in both runs for the GreenJackets on a pair of grounders to second base in the third and fifth innings. The rest of the team left eight runners on base.
Augusta lost for just the second time in seven games and fell a game out of first place behind Rome in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division standings.