Ten hits came at all the wrong times for the Augusta GreenJackets in a 3-0 loss to the Savannah Sand Gnats at Lake Olmstead Stadium on Saturday night.
Seven of the hits came with nobody on base and the team went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. With a first-pitch temperature of 105 degrees, the GreenJackets lost for the second night in a row, stranding 11 runners – seven in scoring position – and were shutout for the third time this season.
“0 for 7 and 11,” manager Lipso Nava said. “That’s it. That’s the game right there. I’d rather have fewer hits with guys in scoring position to get things going.”
GreenJackets starter Adalberto Mejia (5-5) entered the game on a nine-inning scoreless streak but gave up four consecutive hits to start the third and hand Savannah a 2-0 lead.
A Charlie Thurber double and Greg Pron single put runners at first and third with no outs. Yucarybert De La Cruz singled in Thurber and Dustin Lawley’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Pron.
The Sand Gnats (3-7, 44-33) added another run in the fifth when De La Cruz reached on a Kelby Tomlinson error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a grounder to second and scored on Cam Maron’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Mejia had to leave the game after one pitch in the sixth when a line drive off the bat of Brian Harrison struck him in the shin. He was helped off the field and left trailing 3-0 after giving up two earned runs on seven hits. He walked none and struck out three.
“He’s all right,” Nava said. “Luckily it didn’t hit him in the knee, it was a blow a little lower.”
Steven Neff got the call from the bullpen and stopped the bleeding completely with a four-inning shutout effort. He allowed just one hit, walked none and struck out five.
“He did a great job,” Nava said. “I’ve been really happy in having the pitching staff we have. It’s a blessing. We just have to have that hero every night. Someone who’s going to step up and start the ball rolling.”
Savannah starter Alex Panteliodis lasted just three innings on 41 pitches but scattered four hits and walked none for his first scoreless outing in more than a month.
Jim Fuller, making a comeback from shoulder surgery that prevented him from pitching at all last season, took over in the fourth and shut out the GreenJackets over 3⅔ innings. He allowed two hits and walked two but struck out three and got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth for his first win in more than a year.
Augusta’s Garrett Buechele improved to 8 for 17 on the homestand with a 3 for 4 night.
The GreenJackets (6-4, 38-41) fell two games behind first-place Rome and into a tie for second with Greenville in the Southern Division standings.
Savannah has taken the first two games of the five-game series, and the GreenJackets will have to sweep the remaining three games to avoiding losing their first series in a month.