As one door was being closed by Augusta reliever Mike Rupp, another was left open by Charleston shortstop Thomas Lora.
The result Saturday night was a second straight GreenJackets victory, 5-4, over the struggling Alley Cats at Lake Olmstead Stadium, as Rupp picked up his first victory after another strong night of relief.
"I just came in and tried to keep the game close and do my job," Rupp said. "We got another win tonight, so it's good to see all the hard work paying off now."
Hard work by Jackets leadoff man Lew Ford certainly paid off in the seventh inning.
With the game tied 4-4, Ford reached second base on a one-out error by Lora. He then stole third base and scored the go-ahead run on Cesar Saba's sacrifice fly to right field.
The one-run cushion was plenty, what with the game in the hands of the ever-reliable Jackets bullpen.
Left-handed set-up man Corey Spencer again did his job, pitching a perfect eighth inning, and closer B.J. Leach finished it off with a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down his seventh save.
"We've pretty much been doing that all year," Leach said. "We've just done our jobs. Everybody who's come in has thrown strikes. I think we have the (second) least amount of walks in the league as a staff. That pretty much says a lot right there."
The turning point was the Alley Cats' fifth inning, when Rupp (1-0) worked his way out of a jam after taking over for starter Brad Baker with no outs and runners on first and second.
Rupp escaped with minimal damage, limiting Charleston to only one run in the inning, which tied the game at 4.
The 21-year-old right-hander allowed just two hits in three scoreless innings of work to improve to 1-0 and lower his ERA to 1.59.
"Rupp came in and did an outstanding job, Spence came in and pitched his inning and did a good job, and B.J. did what he's been doing all along and closed it out," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "I'm happy with our defense; another night with no errors. I've said all along if you can pitch and play defense, you have a chance to win a bunch of ballgames. We did that, and had a couple key breaks go our way."
Augusta (12-18) staked Baker to a comfortable lead with a four-run second inning, highlighted by a two-run triple by Ford off Alley Cats starter Ryan Baerlocker.
But after leading the minors with an 0.83 ERA in his first four starts, which earned him Red Sox minor league pitcher of the month for April, Baker struggled with his command for a second consecutive start.
Coming off a rough outing in Monday night's 20-0 loss at Piedmont, when he allowed six runs in two innings of work, the first-round supplemental draft pick by Boston in the 1999 draft clearly was off his game again on Saturday, giving up four runs on seven hits in four-plus innings.
"Bake scuffled a little bit with his command, and his arm may be a little tired right now," said Boulanger, who hinted that Baker may skip his next start to give his weary arm a break.
"It could be a dead arm situation, which happens to a lot of young pitchers in their first full season. We've had a couple of guys hit the wall already and miss a start, and it's done them some good."
The Jackets (12-18) managed only five hits off three Charleston pitchers, but benefited from three errors, including the fateful routine ground ball by Ford that rolled through Lora's legs in the seventh.
Charleston reliever Antonio Zurita (0-1) deserved a better fate, as he allowed just two hits in three innings, but nevertheless suffered the hard-luck loss as a result of the decisive unearned run.
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Alley Cats, who have committed 16 errors during the skid and hold the worst record in the South Atlantic League at 8-20.
"I'm pleased with the progress we've made," said Boulanger, whose Jackets now have won seven of their past 12 games after opening the season 5-13. "We're getting better every day. That's all you can ask for."
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