Winning finally returned to Lake Olmstead Stadium this week after the Augusta GreenJackets spent almost all of last week in the loss column.
The six-game losing streak was the team’s longest in more than three years. The GreenJackets were shut out twice during the streak, swept by first-place Rome and outscored 37-14. After the week of losing, a 7-1 win Sunday was a welcomed relief.
“Sacks of cement off my back,” manager Lipso Nava said.
The GreenJackets were helped out of the downward spiral thanks to a wild outing from Charleston starter Bryan Mitchell, who committed a balk, hit two batters and threw four wild pitches to give up five runs.
By the time Devin Harris homered to left field, the game was fully in Augusta’s favor.
But in the world of development baseball, Nava said his players can’t linger on a single win or loss and must instead prepare for another week of games.
“Our battle is tomorrow,” he said after the win. “It’s another day. I’d just like to see us get the same breaks we had today.”
HOMER HELP: Harris’ game-turning home run was his third in 24 games with Augusta. He admitted he had some help during his at bat thanks to the base-stealing threat Shawn Payne posed at first base.
Mitchell threw over to first base several times to keep Payne as close to the bag as possible during Harris’ at bat. Harris took the first pitch he saw for a ball before hitting the second well over the left field wall.
“It’s definitely a possibility that he was distracted,” Harris said of the pitcher. “Whenever your attention gets drawn away by something it can be hard to stay focused.”
Payne entered Monday’s play ranked second in the South Atlantic League with 40 stolen bases. He has been caught stealing just twice this season.
BIG DROP: Augusta’s losing streak combined with an even longer winning streak from Rome to not only knock the GreenJackets out of first place but nearly out of contention.
The GreenJackets were first in the league’s Southern Division on July 21. But Rome strung together a franchise-record 13-game winning streak while Augusta lost 11 of 15 games.
The results put the GreenJackets 8½ games out of first place before Sunday’s win.
MISSING IN ACTION: Augusta averaged just 2.3 runs per game during the losing streak and some of that might fall on the absence of first baseman Ben Thomas, who was suspended last week for breaking a team rule.
Nava declined to comment about the suspension other than to say Thomas had been sent home.
The 23-year-old left-handed slugger led the team with 49 RBI and was among the league leaders in games played before he left.
FILLING IN: With Thomas gone and Wes Hodges still on the disabled list, the GreenJackets have been left without a true first baseman.
Third baseman Garrett Buechele came to the rescue.
“Before this year I’d played there before,” he said. “When I was 12.”
Buechele didn’t show any signs of rust over the weekend, making multiple defensive highlights during the team’s homestand, including a diving stop in Sunday’s game to end the third inning.
Elliott Blair, Jose Flores and Myles Schroder have all played first for Augusta this year, though none have extensive experience there.