Originally created 05/08/00

Jackets sweep series



The secret to the GreenJackets' recent surge is simple.

While the pitchers have been steering clear of the big inning, the hitters have been finding ways to put some crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

With another quality outing by starter Rick Riccobono and a five-run seventh inning, the Jackets came from behind to beat the Charleston Alley Cats 8-4 on Monday, completing their first series sweep this season with their fourth straight win to open an eight-game homestand.

"Being at home now, we've been able to get in a lot of early work before games, and guys are definitely improving and good things are starting to happen for this club," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "We're making the routine plays in the field that we struggled with early, and now you're starting to see guys make some really nice plays, as well."

Trailing 3-2 in the seventh after Charleston starter Jimmy Gobble limited them to four hits through the first six innings, the Jackets' bats came alive and sent the reeling Alley Cats (8-22) to their eighth consecutive loss.

Leadoff man Lew Ford's infield single scored Chris Warren with the tying run, and shortstop Cesar Saba followed with a sharp single to center field to drive in a pair of runs. A third run scored on the play and Saba advanced to third when the low liner got past Charleston center fielder Charlie Ramirez for an error to make it 6-3.

"It's been Ford the past few nights coming through with those key hits, and it was good to see Saba come through with a big hit, as well," Boulanger said.

The Jackets had 10 hits, with Saba and Brady Williams collecting two hits apiece, including a solo home run by Williams in the third inning. Warren also had a big night, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Making his seventh start of the year, Riccobono (3-3) allowed three runs on three hits in seven innings, walking two while striking out four for the victory.

It was the third consecutive victory for the 21-year-old right-hander after three straight losing decisions to open the season. In his past four starts, Riccobono has allowed just five earned runs in 23 innings for a 1.96 ERA.

"Riccobono pitched a really outstanding ballgame," Boulanger said. "He got us deep into the game and the bullpen wasn't a concern tonight. We were able to do what we wanted to do and save (closer B.J. Leach) and some of our other guys out of the bullpen for tomorrow."

Eluterio Castro came on to pitch the final two innings, and although he allowed one run on an RBI-single by Charleston's Brian Johnson in the ninth inning, the 21-year-old right hander was effective in his two innings of work.

Gobble (2-3), the first-round supplemental pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1999 draft, took the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Monday's win was the capper to a very promising weekend for the Jackets, who climbed out of last place in the Southern Division with Sunday's win. Augusta (14-18) has won five of their past six games, outhitting the Alley Cats 39-28 in the series while not committing an error in the four games.

"We're playing with much more confidence now," said Saba, an 18-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who was rated in the preseason by Baseball America as the eighth best prospect in the Red Sox organization. "I know I am playing much better now defensively than I was, and I also feel much better at the plate."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.