It was the kind of matchup that made it clear to the GreenJackets early that they could be in for a long night.
A shortage of available arms due to a Memorial Day doubleheader in Savannah that forced untested Jason Elmore into a spot start Friday night, and an aggressive-swinging Columbus club that has terrorized Augusta pitching all year.
"Columbus is the kind of team that is going to take advantage of you if your pitchers can't get their off-speed stuff over," said Jackets pitching coach Scott Lovekamp, after the RedStixx pounded out 10 hits in a 10-3 rout before 3,426 fans at Lake Olmstead Stadium. "They're an aggressive, fastballhitting team, and that makes it tough when you're throwing inexperienced guys out there."
Elmore (2-1), a 22-year-old selected by the Pirates in the 18th round of the draft last June, spotted the Stixx a 5-0 lead after two innings, and was relieved by Paul Ah Yat in the third after he reached his 60-pitch limit.
All five runs against the 6-foot-5 right-hander, who pitched only 8 innings prior to his first start, were earned, on four hits and two walks.
"You've got to remind yourself that as a coach, your primary objective at this level is to develop pitchers like Elmore," Lovekamp said. "It's tempting to use the more experienced guy because he's probably going to give you a better chance to win. But winning isn't always the most important thing. Jason's a guy who needs his work, and the only way he's going to learn is by going out there and taking some lumps."
Ah Yat was again a bright spot for the rollercoaster Jackets, as he gave up just one hit, one walk and one unearned run with five strikeouts in four innings of work.
But the damage was done early by Columbus, hitting .273 as a team against the Jackets.
The Stixx scored three in the first on Chad Whitaker's three-run double and Dennis Konrady, who was hitting .400 against Augusta pitching this season coming in, went 3-for-4 with four RBI, including his first home run in the season, a two-run shot in the second inning.
"I don't know what it is about the way we've been able to hit their pitching, because they've really thrown some quality guys out there against us," Konrady said. "Even tonight, their guys didn't have bad stuff, I just got lucky a couple of times on mistakes. I can't explain it, we're just successful against them."
For the Jackets, who won the first two games of the series to give them six straight victories before dropping the final two, their season-long troubles at home continued Friday.
Anemic again offensively on Friday after they were victims of a combined one-hitter the night before, the Jackets (26-29) are batting just .228 at home and are now 10-17 at The Lake. In the fourgame series, Augusta managed only 14 hits.
Catcher Lee Evans, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI, and Al Davis, who also was 2-for-4 including his fourth home run of the season - a solo shot to left field in the seventh inning - provided the lone spark against a team with a 4.98 team ERA, worst in the South Atlantic League.
"It seems like we really struggle to get the bats going here," said manager Whitey Richardson, after Columbus starter Jimmy Hamilton held Augusta to four hits in six innings to take the win, and reliever Matt Minter closed it out with three innings of two-hit ball for his first save. "We got in a hole, 5-0, 6-0 early, and it's tough to come back from that."
NOTES: Outfielder Bo Springfield was placed on the disabled list just before gametime Friday with a pulled hamstring, and the Jackets activated infielder Luis Lorenzana, who was assigned to Erie last week but remained with the club.