As fate would have it, the first significant contribution of Les Dennis' career with his new organization came against his former one.
Released in April by the New York Yankees after five-plus seasons with the organization, Dennis signed with the Boston Red Sox and joined the GreenJackets last week to add some much-needed infield depth.
Making his second start at third base for his new club Monday night, Dennis delivered the big hit in a big fifth inning as the Jackets defeated his former club, the Greensboro Bats, 6-2 at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"I've been off for a month and a half after I was released, and I'm still getting into the swing of things," said Dennis, whose two-run double down the right-field line in the fifth inning gave Augusta the lead for good. "I'm glad to be with the Boston Red Sox now and look forward to being a part of this club and helping the club as much as I can."
Trailing 2-0 after starter Brad Baker struggled with his command, the Jackets struck for five runs on six hits in the fifth off Greensboro starter Mike Knowles to win their fifth straight game. More importantly, the win pushed the Jackets (23-22) over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The 26-year-old Dennis, a 28th-round draft pick by the Yankees in 1995, finished 2-for-3 to headline another night of timely Jackets hitting.
Leadoff hitter Lew Ford, held hitless in his first two at-bats, laced an RBI-single in the fateful fifth inning for the Jackets, extending his hitting streak to 17 consecutive games.
No. 9-hitter Jon Anderson also continued his recent surge, going 2-for-4 with one RBI. In his past six games, Anderson is 8-for-19 (.421).
"Losing breeds losing, as you saw early in the season, but winning breeds winning, which I think you're seeing now," said manager Mike Boulanger, whose Jackets have won 14 of their past 17 games. "Confidence is something you can't teach, and the guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Despite giving up one run and three hits in the fifth, his only inning of work, reliever Corey Spencer (2-2) picked up the victory, while Knowles (2-4) gave up five earned runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings to take the loss for Greensboro (23-22).
With Greensboro in 1996, Dennis was well on his way to a promising career as a Yankees farmhand. The Portland, Ore., native made the jump to high Class A Tampa to start the 1997 season, then was promoted to Double-A Norwich late in the season.
In a talent-rich organization loaded with infield prospects, Dennis again ended up splitting the 1998 and 1999 seasons between Norwich and Tampa and found himself the odd-man out this season in spring training.
While managing for the Minnesota Twins' affiliate in the Florida State League the past two seasons, Boulanger became familiar with Dennis. When Dennis was released by the Yankees, Boulanger consulted with Red Sox farm director Kent Qualls and recommended his signing.
The Jackets needed another versatile infielder in the wake of recent injuries to second baseman Patrick Santoro and third baseman Brady Williams, and Boulanger welcomed the addition of Dennis as a veteran presence in the lineup and the clubhouse.
Already, he has made an impact, going 3-for-6 with three RBI in his first two games with the Jackets.
"He's a professional ballplayer," Boulanger said. "Les is a mature player who knows the game and carries himself well. I liked him when I managed against him, and I'm glad to have him with our club now."
Shortstop Cesar Saba, whose walk-off two-run home run in the 10th inning Saturday gave the Jackets a 6-4 win over Delmarva, went 0-for-5 on Monday, ending his hitting streak at 13 games. ... First baseman Luis Garcia experienced tightness in his back during batting practice Monday and was a late scratch from the lineup. He is day-to-day. ... Greensboro third baseman/outfielder Jeff Nettles is the son of former New York Yankees third baseman Craig Nettles.
Vs.: Greensboro Bats (Yankees)
Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium
When: 7:05 p.m.
Probable starters: Greensboro -- RHP Ricardo Aramboles (2-4, 5.24 ERA); Augusta -- RHP Dennis Tankersley (1-3, 5.20)
Tickets: $7, $6, $5.
Promotion: Two for Tuesday -- Two beers for the price of one.
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