Traveling with momentum after a wrapping up a three-game sweep at home last week, the Augusta GreenJackets still had something to prove when they hit the road last weekend for a four-game series in Charleston.
Manager Lipso Nava was pleased with the effort at home, but his players’ tendency to struggle mightily on the road was why they sat on the outskirts of the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division pennant race. After taking three out of four from the Charleston RiverDogs, Nava said he’s much more pleased with his squad.
“We had a meeting with the guys before the series,” he said. “We told them there’s no pressure, but there needs to be some accountability. We’re trying to get some momentum here and trying to finish strong.”
The GreenJackets, who entered the series 35-26 at home but just 32-25 on the road, lost the series opener 3-1 but won the remaining three games, including a 4-0 win Sunday in the series finale that saw starter Edwin Escobar come within one strike of a complete-game shutout.
Augusta didn’t gain much ground on first-place Rome, which finished the weekend on a six-game winning streak, but the GreenJackets did climb to third in the division.
ANOTHER GEM: Escobar narrowly missed out on the league’s pitcher of the week award after his near-perfect performance in Charleston. The 20-year-old Venezuelan lefty allowed just one hit and struck out nine in 8⅔ scoreless innings.
“That was his best game so far,” Nava said. “He really was dominating with the fastball and the slider changing speeds like he did. He looked like the same guy I saw last winter in winter ball.”
The shutout marked the third time this season Escobar has thrown at least six scoreless innings. In three starts this month, he’s posted a 2-0 record and 1.31 ERA.
PLAYOFF CHECK: The successful series in Charleston, combined with the sweep at home, meant the GreenJackets entered Monday’s play having won six of seven.
While not yet mathematically eliminated from contention, the GreenJackets will have a difficult time trying to catch Rome for the division’s final playoff spot. With 15 games to play, Augusta sat 6½ games behind the Braves.
PLAY ALL DAY: The GreenJackets will play a doubleheader in Greenville today that won’t mirror the league’s traditional two-game format.
Game 1 of the doubleheader, a make-up of the rain out in Augusta on July 12, is scheduled for a first pitch of 1:05 p.m., while Game 2 will start at the originally scheduled time of 7:05.
The day/night doubleheader was set up when Greenville realized it will get an extra home game because of the rain out at Lake Olmstead Stadium in July.
The team has promoted the event as the “Let’s Hit 350” game to help Greenville’s season-long push to surpass 350,000 fans for the year.
Tickets to Game 1 of the doubleheader, including general admission, reserved seating and box seats, will sell for $3.50 each.
Fans will need separate tickets to gain admission to Game 2. Both games will be seven-inning contests.
TRANSACTIONS: The GreenJackets lost a bat last week but gained an arm. First baseman Wes Hodges returned to Double-A Richmond and has gone 6 for 13 with two RBI and two extra-base hits in his first three games with the Flying Squirrels.
San Jose pitcher Danny Sandbrink was sent to Augusta and started Saturday’s game in Charleston.
The 23-year-old Stanford product allowed one earned run on four hits and no walks in four innings of the 7-6 win.
COMING UP: The GreenJackets will return to Lake Olmstead Stadium on Thursday for a four-game series with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Single-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
The series will mark the second-to-last time the GreenJackets will play at home this season.
The final homestand will run through Labor Day weekend, starting Aug. 31 with a four-game series against the Charleston RiverDogs.