With the South Atlantic League's top hitting team threatening and the largest Thirsty Thursday crowd of the season watching, the Augusta GreenJackets put a tie game in the hands of its bullpen. The relievers proved up for the challenge by no-hitting the Asheville Tourists over the final four innings in a 6-5 series-opening win.
Four Augusta relievers combined to allow no earned runs and strike out six in front of an announced crowd of 4,346. Starting pitchers Shawn Sanford and Albert Campos both left after five with no leader thanks to errors, wild pitches and plenty of offense early.
GreenJackets right-hander Edward Concepcion (1-1) allowed an unearned run in the sixth when catcher Joel Weeks overthrew third base on Russell Wilson's steal attempt, but the Tourists could do no more. Drew Bowlin threw a scoreless seventh, Brett Bochy struck out the side in the eighth, and Stephen Harrold threw a perfect ninth for his 10th save.
"Anybody who says there's no pressure is lying," said Bowlin, who took over in the seventh after Concepcion walked the leadoff batter. "But I think most of us in the bullpen thrive off that."
Trailing by one entering the bottom of the sixth, Chris Lofton tied the game for Augusta when he rolled a grounder to short with one out and the bases loaded. Lofton beat out the throw on Asheville's double-play attempt, allowing Weeks to score from third.
Ehire Adrianza scored the eventual game-winning run on a two-out wild pitch from Asheville reliever Josh Mueller (2-3) later in the sixth.
Augusta managed just one hit over its final 10 plate appearances, but that didn't matter on a night when the GreenJackets' pitching dominated late.
"It's another one for the bullpen," manager Lipso Nava said. "They've been pretty steady, and that takes the pressure off the offensive side, which we've been lacking this first half."
Sanford, who was named a replacement all-star pitcher and will join the South Atlantic League's Southern Division roster in next week's game, struggled with control problems early and walked three of the first five batters he faced.
He gave up extra base hits to Helder Vazquez and Russell Wilson in a three-run second inning and allowed another run to score in the third on a pair of wild pitches.
Augusta's Adam Duvall and Weeks drove in runs in the first and second innings to take an early lead.
Back-to-back doubles from Rafael Rodriguez and Ryan Scoma highlighted a two-run fourth inning.
Former Clemson quarterback and Tourists right fielder Kyle Parker, whose family lives in Evans, went 1 for 2 with a walk, an infield single and two runs scored.