Harris' return sparks GreenJackets win

Augusta claims fourth consecutive home win

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Devin Harris didn’t waste time reacquainting himself with the spacious outfield at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

The right fielder, who tallied 42 extra base hits for Augusta a year ago, arrived in town Tuesday and delivered the clutch hit Wednesday night in a 4-2 GreenJackets win over the Greenville Drive.

Harris lined a double to the left-center field gap with one on and one out in the eighth inning of a tie game. Catcher Joe Staley scored from first on the play, and Harris came around on a Jeff Arnold double off the left-field wall two batters later.

“My timing was off,” said Harris, who had played just once over the past three weeks. “I hadn’t gotten many at bats lately and so I talked to the coaches and they just told me to get started earlier. The biggest thing for me right now is putting the barrel on the ball. The power will come.”

Harris had struggled earlier this year, hitting just .185 with only nine extra base hits in 53 games for Advanced-A San Jose. But the 24-year-old delivered Wednesday night for a team desperate for clutch hitting.

The GreenJackets dropped four of five games in Asheville last week after going just 5 for 50 with runners in scoring position. After a rain-shortened win to start an eight-game homestand Tuesday night, Wednesday’s late offense was a welcomed relief to manager Lipso Nava, who teamed up with hitting coach Nestor Rojas before the series for an offensive huddle.

“We had a hitters’ meeting and went through some of the stats from that (Asheville) series, and talked about what was lacking,” Nava said. “It’s about being consistent, trying to get on base, better pitch selection. Every time we get on base we have better chances to score runs.”

GreenJackets starter Bryce Bandilla returned to the Augusta mound for the first time since spending two months in Arizona dealing with an elbow injury. The San Francisco Giants’ fourth-round pick, who was 1-3 with a 2.18 ERA before leaving in May, threw five shutout innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

Bandilla gave up three consecutive one-out hits to surrender Augusta’s one-run lead and left with the bases loaded, but reliever Kevin Couture stopped the bleeding by inducing a two-out grounder to second. Bandilla allowed one run, scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out nine.

Augusta left fielder Shawn Payne extended his hitting streak to 11 games and delivered a game-tying, two-out RBI single in the seventh.

Kyle Vazquez (2-2) blew the one-run lead in the top of the eighth but got the win after Harris and Arnold won the game in the bottom of the inning.

Cody Hall converted his 15th consecutive save opportunity with a scoreless ninth.

Greenville reliever Nate Striz (0-2) took the loss.

The GreenJackets (11-9, 43-46) won their fourth in a row at home and moved to within two games of first-place Rome in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Devin Harris, in his first game back in Augusta, drilled a one-out, 3-2 pitch to the left-center field gap in the eighth to score Joe Staley from first and give the GreenJackets the lead for good.

STAR OF THE GAME: Harris went 2 for 3 with a double, single and a walk.

NEXT: Augusta GreenJackets vs. Greenville Drive, today, 7:05 p.m.

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