It's not so much a question of whether he can pitch at this level. Anastacio Martinez already has proven he can. He just has to do it with more consistency.
The same can be said for the GreenJackets, who certainly possess the talent to compete in the South Atlantic League, but have failed to put it all together on a regular basis.
After rough starts in 2000, Martinez and the Jackets both have made progress. But together Wednesday, they took another step back.
The 19-year-old Martinez was roughed up in his seventh start, as the Jackets dropped their second straight decision to the first-place Columbus RedStixx in a 12-10 loss at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"That's baseball," said Martinez (2-3), who lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs. "You have your good games and your bad games. This is a game I have to put out of my mind and go back to work for the next time."
A lot can be said for selective memory, but it no doubt will be hard for the Dominican Republic native to block out this latest setback. Martinez was on a roll, having won his previous two decisions and allowing three runs or less in his previous four starts.
And his outing was a microcosm of the first six games of the Jackets' eight-game homestand.
After scoring their first series sweep this season with four straight wins over Charleston Alley Cats -- who hold the worst record in the South Atlantic League -- the Jackets have tumbled back down to Earth after being outscored 18-9 and outhit 27-16 by the RedStixx in the first two games of the four-game series.
But give the Jackets credit for refusing to quit, with big innings in the sixth and ninth innings providing the bright spots to help offset the lowlights.
"It's not frustrating, but it's tough to lose this way because we didn't play that well tonight," said first baseman Luis Garcia, who went 2-for-3 including a three-run home run in the sixth inning. "We made too many mistakes tonight that cost us the game. But we did battle back, which will help our confidence."
Garcia's team-leading seventh homer in the fifth highlighted a five-run sixth for the Jackets against starter Stephen Cowie and reliever Alex Herrera.
But coming off an errorless series against Charleston and only one error in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the RedStixx, the Jackets committed three costly ones Wednesday.
The Jackets' reliable bullpen also faltered for a second straight night. After Martinez left in the fourth inning trailing 7-0, reliever Alex Solano couldn't douse the flames, allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits in three innings of work.
Those runs proved the difference, as the Jackets went down fighting with five more runs in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to two.
Surging left fielder Chris Warren belted a three-run home run in the ninth, his sixth of the season, off Columbus (21-14) reliever Josh Santos, but Rafael Gross came on to strike out the next two Jackets batters, nailing down his first save of the season.
Cowie (5-0) allowed three hits and four runs in five-plus innings to pick up the victory, to improve Columbus' record to 6-0 against the Jackets (14-20) this season.
"We know we can play with any team in this league," Warren said. "We've got to try to play steadier baseball. The good thing is we did come back to make it a ballgame. We never quit, when a lot of other teams might have."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
Vs.: Columbus RedStixx (Indians)
Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium
When: 7:05 p.m.
Probable starters: Columbus -- LHP Jason Stanford (3-1, 2.23 ERA); Augusta -- RHP Brad Baker (3-1, 3.90)
Tickets: $7, $6, $5
Promotion: Thirsty Thursday -- 32-ounce beers for $2
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