Originally created 09/07/00

Jackets play at home due to rain



They cursed the rain after a few long and laborious nights at the ballpark.

But the GreenJackets welcomed the wet weather with open arms Wednesday, for it gave them the break they so desperately needed.

With the Jackets facing elimination after a 2-1 loss to the Columbus RedStixx in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League Southern Divisional playoff series Tuesday night at home, Game 2 of the series in Columbus was postponed because of the weather.

Also, because more heavy rain fell on the saturated turf at Golden Park in Columbus, the balance of the best-of-three series will be played at Lake Olmstead Stadium, including tonight's Game 2. The RedStixx had four straight rainouts at home to conclude the regular season.

"It may be the blessing we needed," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "We're all tired after that Hickory series, and I think you saw it (Tuesday). Our bats were slow, and the crispness wasn't there."

The Jackets closed out the regular season at home last weekend with a four-game series against Hickory that took a lot longer to complete than anyone could have imagined.

After Saturday's game was postponed because of rain, Augusta and Hickory played a marathon doubleheader Sunday that was delayed more than 2' hours at the start. Game 2 of the twin bill went to extra innings and wasn't completed until 1:40 a.m. Monday.

Less than eight hours later, the players were back at the stadium for 9 a.m. exit physicals required by the parent Boston Red Sox. The regular-season finale against the Crawdads on Monday was a 2:30 p.m. start.

Then, Game 1 of the playoffs Tuesday was delayed 2 hours, 28 minutes. The game ended a few ticks shy of midnight.

The grind actually began for the Jackets prior to the final four-game homestand, as they endured their longest road trip of the season -- an eight-game swing to Delmarva (Salisbury, Md.) and Charleston, W.Va. After closing out the trip with a win Thursday night in Charleston, the team bus drove through the night, arriving in Augusta at about 7 a.m. Friday.

On the other hand, the RedStixx were well rested entering the series after the unexpected four-day weekend respite.

"We really never had a chance to recover from the road trip," Boulanger said. "The rainout is just what we needed. Plus, we don't have to get back on the bus now. This is a break for us."

Coming in, the series looked like a mismatch in the making. The Jackets posted the best record in the SAL after April 21 and won a league-high 45 games in the second half to finish 83-58. Columbus won the first-half division title with a 42-29 mark but lost several key players to call-ups and stumbled after the all-star break, losing 41 of its final 66 games.

Augusta won 11 of the 17 regular-season meetings against Columbus, including the final eight in a row. What's more, the Jackets posted the second-best home record in the SAL this season, going 48-22 at The Lake, including a 17-3 mark in their final 20 home contests.

None of that mattered to Columbus starter Anthony Marini and reliever Rick Matsko in Game 1. They combined to limit the Jackets to three hits, only one after the first inning.

Augusta starter Brad Baker wasn't his sharpest, but he pitched well enough to keep the Jackets in the contest, allowing four hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old walked three batters and struck out seven.

While the Jackets get to play Game 2 in their home park tonight, they technically will be the visiting team and will bat first.

Right-hander Anastacio Martinez (9-4, 4.64 ERA), who has won four straight decisions, gets the start tonight for the Jackets against RedStixx left-hander Adam Barr (3-5, 5.80).

The 20-year-old Martinez has made great strides in the second half and pitched his best ball over the past month. In his final five starts of the regular season, he allowed just five earned runs in 31 innings (1.45 ERA), giving up just 22 with 35 strikeouts.

He flirted with a no-hitter against Asheville on Aug. 20 before his bid was broken with a one-out single in the ninth inning by James Rinne.

"Martinez has done well," Boulanger said. "We've got to win this one, obviously, and win the next one, too, but we've won more than two in a row many times."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.