A frenzied comeback in the final inning of Game 2 of a pair of seven-inning games between the GreenJackets and Savannah Sand Gnats set the stage for the home team to avenge a Game 1 loss with a walk-off win in Game 2.
The GreenJackets, who dropped the first game 6-3, trailed by four runs heading into the final inning of the second game. But Sand Gnats shortstop Matt Reynolds, who helped win Game 1 with a two-run homer, booted a routine grounder with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to allow the game-tying run to score.
“As soon as he let that ball go, we knew we had to win this one,” GreenJackets second baseman Jose Cuevas said.
Augusta got a two-out double from Ben Thomas in the eighth, and Cuevas brought him home with a line drive down the third base line for a walk-off victory.
The unlikely comeback, which saw Augusta score five runs in the final two innings, erased eight consecutive scoreless innings that threatened to extend the club’s losing streak to four.
Instead the GreenJackets (7-5, 39-42) trotted off the field exhausted but smiling thanks to the stolen victory and their South Atlantic League-leading 21st one-run win.
“They guys might feel tired,” manager Lipso Nava said. “But they also feel satisfied. We don’t give.”
Starting pitcher Edwin Escobar blew an early lead in Game 1 and the bats failed to bail him out in Augusta’s third consecutive loss.
The GreenJackets took a 2-0 advantage in Game 1 with Brett Krill’s homer in the third inning.
But Savannah got one run back in the fourth on Jose Flores’ second error of the game.
Escobar (3-5) was solid through four innings but fell apart in the fifth when he was pulled after giving up four consecutive hits to start the inning.
With three runs already home on a Dustin Lawley double and Aderlin Rodriguez single, the GreenJackets brought in Kevin Couture, who gave up a home run to his first batter. Reynolds’ two-run blast hugged the inside of the left field foul pole for his first homer in just his second game with Savannah.
Sand Gnats starter Marcos Camarena gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks.
Shawn Payne, who went 3 for 4 with a double, added an RBI single in his last at bat to pull the GreenJackets within three runs.
Carlos Vazquez (5-1) retired three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless sixth inning to get the win, and T.J. Chism threw a perfect seventh to move into a tie with Augusta’s Cody Hall for the league lead in saves with 13.
The game was a make up of Sunday’s contest, which was postponed due to heavy wind and lightning.
Augusta’s bats, which failed to muster a comeback in Game 1, nearly duplicated the feat in Game 2 until the final inning of regulation.
Savannah starter Domingo Tapia, who threw seven shutout innings against Augusta in Savannah in April, once again dominated the GreenJackets by throwing 5 ⅔ scoreless innings on just two hits.
Augusta starter Paul Davis allowed one run in five innings, but the real damage came in the sixth when reliever Jacob Dunnington took over.
After Cam Maron and Dustin Lawley reached on singles, Rodriguez blasted a home run over the left field wall for a 4-0 lead.
Savannah reliever Randy Fontanez put the first two runners on base in the seventh. Ben Thomas brought both runs home with a blooper over the shortstop’s head.
The Sand Gnats brought in Chasen Bradford, who gave up two singles and an RBI grounder before Brett Krill’s grounder to short skipped off Reynolds’ glove.
Reynolds, fresh off a College World Series appearance with Arkansas before the Mets drafted him in the second round last month, needed only to field the grounder and step on second base to seal the win.
Instead Cuevas scored the game-tying run, then drove home the winning run an inning later after Augusta closer Cody Hall (3-0) struck out three of the four batters he faced in the top of the eighth.