The GreenJackets scored three in the third en route to a 6-2 win over the Lexington Legends on Tuesday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Augusta (40-23) singled and sacrificed its way to a win in the first game of what could be the deciding series of the season. The GreenJackets lead the Legends by 51/2 games with six remaining.
One more win in the series clinches a South Atlantic League Southern Division second-half title for the GreenJackets.
Payne went 3 for 4 and scored two of the team’s six runs from the leadoff spot. He worked Legends pitchers well and helped rack up pitch counts.
“When you’re in the leadoff spot, you try to see pitches and work the starter to get him out of the game,” Payne said. “They have a tough pitching staff, so you try to get the starter out.”
Augusta starter Martin Agosta allowed two runs on four hits in five innings, walking three and striking out six. The right-hander struggled with control and totaled 89 pitches through five, but he induced nine swinging strikes and allowed just one line drive.
Agosta outpitched Lexington starter Daniel Stumpf, who allowed four runs in 4⅔ innings. Stumpf also struck out six and induced 14 swinging strikes, but he gave up more hard contact that totaled four line drives.
The GreenJackets were notably aggressive at the plate, swinging often and executing on situational plays.
“I thought the few opportunities we had regarding situational hitting were good,” manager Mike Goff said. “They’re taking advantage of opportunities, and that’s all you can ask out of these guys right now.”
Lexington scored one run each between the third and fourth. Augusta scored three in the third on sacrifice fly RBI by Alberto Robles and Mitch Delfino before Joey Rapp doubled home one.
The GreenJackets added a fourth run in the fourth on a wild pitch. Travious Relaford singled home one in the sixth and another scored on a hit by pitch.