The GreenJackets got what they deserved on Sunday.
Another loss and a serious tongue lashing.
Uninspired effort and continued hitting woes added up to a seventh straight defeat, 5-1, to the Piedmont Boll Weevils before 1,602 fans at The Lake.
After collecting just five hits, committing two costly errors and wasting the solid pitching of starter Mike Mowel and reliever Jason Norton, manager Billy Gardner was past the boiling point.
Behind closed clubhouse doors for more than 10 minutes, Gardner ripped into the players. It was a heated and emotional tirade that most agreed was long overdue.
"Today was kind of the final straw, so to speak," said Gardner, the Midwest League's manager of the year last season after his Michigan Battle Cats finished 79-61.
"That was a lackluster effort. It looks like we're going out there right now ready to lose. We're sitting back ready to get beat."
Said third baseman Chas Terni -- benched Sunday with a .188 average -- of Garnder's diatribe: "It was necessary. . . . Our pitchers let up one, two runs a game and we can't score (anything) for them. (Gardner) was right for doing what he did."
The recurring theme, or nightmare, was good pitching, no offense and shoddy defense, and it led to the Jackets' 18th loss in their last 25 games.
In the last eight games, last-place Augusta has averaged 3.2 runs and 5.3 hits a game. They have scored just one run in the last 26 innings. Their 14-23 record is worst in the South Atlantic League.
"We have got to have a better effort," Gardner said. "That hasn't been the case all year, but it is now. I'm getting the feeling they're starting to like this. I sure as hell don't, and I made them aware of it."
At times, Mowel (1-5) struggled with his command, but pitched solid enough to win. In 5 2/3 innings, the 19-year-old right-hander allowed only one earned run on five hits. He left in the sixth trailing 3-1. The loss was his third straight despite an ERA that is now 2.57 -- 12th best in the SAL.
Norton came on in the sixth and tossed 2 1/3 innings of hitless relief with one walk and four strikeouts.
Although Piedmont (20-17) third baseman Carlos Duncan -- the heralded Phillies prospect and younger brother of former major leaguer Mariano Duncan -- went 2-for-4 with four RBI, most of the damage was self-inflicted.
In a scoreless game, a pair of errors by second baseman Angel Santos led to two Boll Weevils runs in the fifth. After that, for all intents and purposes, the Jackets were done.
"We've got a lot of guys who have a lot of intensity but, possibly, the intensity has slacked off a bit," Mowel said. "Maybe the intensity we have is just in the wrong areas right now."
During the closed-door meeting, Gardner suggested where he thinks the remaining intensity lies. He hinted some players are putting too much focus on a variety of hedonistic post-game activities.
So when the Jackets wake up in Salisbury, Md., on Tuesday for the first of four games vs. the Delmarva Shorebirds, Gardner says things will be different.
"They'll probably have some morning workouts; we're gonna get them out of bed on the road," Gardner said. "The bottom line is, when you get between the lines, there's gotta be a more concentrated effort. There are guys out there right now who are not locked in and not focused for nine innings. That is going to change."
Rob Mueller covers minor league baseball for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Piedmont -- 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 2 -- 5
Augusta -- 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 -- 1
E -- Fajardo (15), Guzman (2), Santos 2 (9). DP -- Piedmont 1, Augusta 1. LOB -- Piedmont 8, Augusta 9. 2B -- Duncan (6), Giron (1), Warren (4), Whitby (2). SF -- Ahumada. SB -- Guzman (2), Key (5). CS -- Brown (5).
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