Alex Ahumada knows what he must do to move his career along as a Red Sox farmhand.
With the glove, the GreenJackets shortstop must make the routine plays consistently and perhaps even throw in some razzle-dazzle from time to time. With the bat, he must simply make contact and, every so often, drive the ball and make something big happen.
While Ahumada was his usual steady self at short Sunday afternoon, he stepped out of his usual offensive game, busting out the power bat in the GreenJackets' 6-5 victory over the Columbus RedStixx at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
With the Jackets trailing by one run, the 170-pounder from Mexico turned on an inside fastball from Columbus reliever Rick Matsko, sending it over the wall in left field for a two-run homer -- his third of the season and only the fourth of his professional career.
"I'm not supposed to hit home runs," the 20-year-old said. "My job is to hit line drives and play good defense, so when I hit one out, I enjoy it a little bit."
After another long day of wasted scoring opportunities, the clutch homer by Ahumada and Angel Mendoza's sixth home run of the year in the eighth inning bailed the Jackets out again. They stranded a season-high 13 baserunners Sunday, going 4-for-18 with runners on base, including 0-for-5 in bases-loaded situations.
"We need to do a better job getting better pitches to hit with runners in scoring position," Jackets manager Billy Gardner said. "The game was too close and, with a club like Columbus, if you don't pull away, they're gonna come after you."
In the ninth inning, the RedStixx did just that against struggling all-star closer Mark Cisar. Second baseman Luis Gonzalez led off the ninth -- Cisar's second inning of work -- with a single, and advanced to second on a passed ball by catcher Andrew Larned.
Cisar recovered to strike out the next two RedStixx, but No. 9 hitter Marques Esquerra laced a two-out single to left center to make it a one-run game.
The 23-year-old Cisar avoided a third-straight blown save opportunity, retiring Eric Thompson on a fly ball to end the game and record his 15th save -- fourth in the league.
"Turns out that home run by Angel was a very important home run," Gardner said. "Any time you can tack on an additional run going into the top of the ninth against a club like Columbus, it helps."
The Jackets' comeback and Cisar's late recovery made a winner of reliever Lance Surridge (2-3), who allowed one run in two innings after starter Josh Hancock allowed two earned runs through five innings.
Matsko (7-2) allowed two runs in two innings for the loss -- Columbus' first defeat of the second half after opening with three wins.
Tee Brown continued his tear to open the second half, going 2-for-3. The 21-year-old centerfielder now has nine hits in his last 17 at-bats.
"Ahumada is going to be a big part of our offense in the second half and a big part of our team as a whole, and with him swinging the bat well along with Tee, we're going to be in good shape," Gardner said.
The box score doesn't tell the story of third baseman Javier Fuentes. Though he went 0-for-4, Fuentes had three line drives that could have been hits with a little luck. He was robbed in the fifth on a great catch by left fielder Osmany Santana, and reached on an error on a rope to third baseman Jeff Powers. He also made a diving stab of a shot headed for the left-field line off the bat of RedStixx catcher Adam Taylor, but his throw to first base was low and Taylor beat it out for a single. ... Two corrections from Sunday's minor league notes: The rumored site for South Atlantic League expansion is Lexington, Ky., and the Albany Polecats relocated to Maryland and became the Delmarva Shorebirds in 1996, while the Cape Fear Crocs were formerly known as the Fayetteville Generals.
Columbus -- 010 021 001 -- 5
Augusta -- 003 000 21x -- 6
Jackets Today Vs.: Columbus RedStixx (Indians)
Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium
When: 7:05 p.m.
Starters: RedStixx -- LHP Ron Marietta (3-2, 5.40); GreenJackets -- RHP Izzy Pineda (1-0, 3.54)
Upcoming: The three-game homestand ends tonight and the GreenJackets visit the RiverDogs in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tickets: Available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Jackets offices on Milledge Road or at stadium box office on game days. For more information, call 736-7889.
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