Just when it seemed the typically steady GreenJackets had sunk to the level of their lowly opponents, the clutch hitting of Morgan Walker and Wiklenman Gonzalez proved why Augusta is currently the hottest club in the league.
After they blew three leads, Walker and Gonzalez enabled the Jackets to finally cash in on Macon's pitching woes, as Augusta scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out a wild 10-8 victory before a packed house Tuesday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Pitching in relief of Chris Case - who relieved starter Billy Blythe with an 8-6 lead - Braves loser Bobby Kahlon (0-1) issued one-out walks to Elton Pollock and Boomer Whipple. The 21-year-old Walker then ripped an RBI-double to make it a 1-run game, and Gonzalez followed with a two-run single to finish it off.
Tied with Columbus atop the Southern Division before the game, the first-half champions improved to 11-3 in the second half of the season and 48-35 overall. The troubled Braves fell to 3-11.
Mike Ayers, Augusta's third pitcher of the night, retired the only batter he faced and improved his record to 2-0.
In his second start since joining the Jackets during the all-star break, Johnson gave up four earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/2 innings. He struck out eight and walked only one, but his own throwing error and a wild pitch in the third inning led to a three-run inning for Macon.
The 22-year-old right-hander took a no decision last week in his impressive first start following his demotion from Lynchburg. He held Piedmont to one run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks in five innings.
Jeff Havens came on to start the ninth inning for Augusta but came up lame after retiring Macon leadoff man Roosevelt Brown. Joe Maskivish finished off the final two batters two record his ninth save.
NOTES: Macon manager Paul Runge was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Wolf. Runge picked a bad time to work himself into a frenzy, which included a colorful dirt-kicking display at Wolf's feet. South Atlantic League president John Moss was seated behind home plate Tuesday night. Count on a nice, fat fine for Runge. Along with the demotion of Charles Rice on Monday, infielder Butch Bellenger was optioned to Erie after playing in just eight games with Augusta. Bellenger was promoted from extended spring training over the SAL all-star break two weeks ago. Infielder Ovidio Frias and outfielder Aaron Edwards were promoted from Erie and joined the club on Monday. Edwards spent part of the 1995 season with the Jackets. Frias went 0-for-4 with a walk in his debut Monday, batting second in the order.... Freddy May, whose nine game hitting streak ended on Monday, switched uniform numbers from 12 to 15....Third baseman Mark Farris remains out of the lineup with a pulled quadricep muscle and, as a precaution, is still five to seven days away from returning.
Struggling outfielder Charles Rice was optioned to Erie (short season New York-Penn League) on Monday, ending what was a most disappointing stint in Augusta. Rice, Pittsburgh's first-round supplemental selection in the June 1993 draft (compensation from San Francisco for the signing of free agent Barry Bonds), batted .178 in 185 at bats with the Jackets this season, and hit just three homers and drove in 13 runs. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound 20-year-old hit .316 with eight homers and 33 RBI in 70 games at Erie last year, after he opened the season with the Jackets.
How they scored
BOTTOM 1ST: Schreiber reached on error by 2b. Schreiber stole second. Pollock walked. Whipple walked; Pollock advanced to second; Schreiber advanced to third. Walker flied out to cf, RBI, SAC; Pollock advanced to third; Schreiber scored, unearned. Whipple stole second; Pollock stole home. Mendez struck out. Gonzalez grounded out p to 1b. AUG 2, MAC 0.
TOP 3RD: Hodges reached on error by 3b. Hodges advanced to second on error by p. Lunar singled to right; Hodges advanced to third. Trippy singled to right, RBI; Lunar advanced to third; Hodges scored, unearned. Lombard singled to right, advanced to second on the throw, RBI; Trippy advanced to third; Lunar scored. Brown struck out. Daugherty struck out. Trippy scored on wild pitch; Lombard out at third c to 3b. MAC 3, AUG 2.
BOTTOM 4TH: Gonzalez struck out. May walked. Frias singled to right; May advanced to third. May scored on a wild pitch.; Frias advanced to second on wild pitch. Springfield singled to right, RBI; Frias scored. Schreiber walked; Springfield advanced to second. Schreiber advanced to second on wild pitch; Springfield advanced to third on wild pitch. Pollock walked. Whipple flied out to rf, SAC, RBI; Schreiber advanced to third; Springfield scored. Pollock stole second. Walker struck out. AUG 5, MAC 3.
TOP 6TH: Brown walked. Daugherty singled to center; Brown advanced to second. Sasser grounded into double play ss to 2b to 1b; Daugherty out at second; Brown advanced to third. Foote singled to right, RBI; Brown scored. Farrow to p for Johnson. Delgado walked; Foote advanced to second. Hodges singled to center, RBI; Delgado advanced to second, out at second ss to 2b; Foote scored. MAC 5, AUG 5.
BOTTOM 6TH: Springfield struck out. Schreiber singled to center. Pollock doubled to left center, RBI; Schreiber scored. Whipple flied out to cf; Pollock advanced to third. Walker struck out. AUG 6, MAC 5.
TOP 7TH: Lunar doubled to left. Person reached on error by 1b, bunt, SAC, advanced to second on error; Lunar scored, unearned. Lombard grounded out to 3b; Person advanced to third; Brown singled to right, RBI; Person scored, unearned. Daugherty flied out to lf. Sasser struck out. MAC 7, AUG 6.
TOP 8TH: Foote doubled to right. Delgado fouled out to c. Hodges intentionally walked. Hodges advanced to second on wild pitch; Foote advanced to third on wild pitch. Lunar struck out. Person singled to 2b, RBI; Hodges advanced to third; Foote scored. Ayers to p for Farrow. Lombard struck out. MAC 8, AUG 6.
BOTTOM 8TH: Kahlon to p for Case. Schreiber lined out to ss. Pollock walked. Whipple walked; Pollock advanced to second. Walker doubled to left center, RBI; Whipple advanced to third; Pollock scored. Edwards pinch ran for Walker. Mendez intenionally walked. Gonzalez singled to left, advanced to second on throw, 2 RBI; Mendez advanced to second, advanced to third on throwing error by lf; Edwards scored; Whipple scored. May intentionally walked. Miyake pinch hitting for Frias. Miyake reached on fielder's choice, RBI; Mendez scored; May out at second unassisted. Springfield struck out.AUG 10, MAC 8.