Mike Boulanger gave his players a verbal pat on the back in the GreenJackets clubhouse after Thursday night's 8-6 loss to the Capital City Bombers.
The implosion in the first two innings, when they spotted the Bombers a 6-0 lead, was history. So were the three errors, the rocky outing by spot starter Rene Miniel and their early struggles at the plate.
For Boulanger, all was forgotten by night's end, thanks to a Jackets club that refused to go down quietly.
"The effort was there; that was a tremendous effort tonight," said Boulanger, whose Jackets rallied for five runs in the final five innings to make it a two-run contest. "You heard me tell the guys to keep that up. We're going to be fine. We're not going to spot teams a 6-0 lead most nights."
But this was one of those nights. Reliever Rene Miniel made started in place of injured starter Mauricio Lara and struggled from the outset. The right-hander, who turned 20 on Thursday, didn't make it out of the second inning. He was charged with five earned runs on five hits and three walks in 1ä innings, and fell to 1-1 with the loss.
"That's a tough spot for Miniel because he's been pitching in a comfort zone, coming in in the middle of the game, when the tempo of the game is already set," Boulanger said. "It's different starting a game when you're used to coming into a game with a lead or in a close game."
The Jackets did their best to make it a close game. After Capital City starter Neal Musser surrendered just one run on two hits with seven strikeouts through four innings, the Jackets came to life against the Bombers bullpen.
Augusta collected eight of their 10 hits from the fifth inning on and had the tying run on first base in the ninth before Bombers closer Tim LaVigne retired Matt Cooper on a grounder to third base to nail down his fifth save.
Reliever Nick Mattoni (2-1) was credited with the victory despite allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits in 2ä innings. But the Bombers gave their pitchers plenty of support with 12 hits, including a 5-for-5 night by second baseman Carlos Castillo, who entered the game batting .100 in 30 at-bats this season.
The loss snapped the Jackets' winning streak at four games and was only their second loss in six home games this season.
"We really battled the whole game, so that's a good sign," said Jackets shortstop Kenny Perez, who went 2-for-4 with one RBI. "As long as we keep doing that, we're going to keep on winning."
Bombers 8, Jackets 5
Player of the game: Bombers second baseman Carlos Castillo, who entered the game batting .100, went 5-for-5 (all singles) with two RBI.
Turning point: The Bombers struck for four runs in the second inning, all with two outs off starter Rene Miniel, to take a 6-0 lead.
Ballpark fun: Jackets staff members tossed T-shirts and soft baseballs to the crowd before the start of the seventh inning, but you would have thought they were throwing $100 bills given the way the fans pounced. Oh yeah, it was Thirsty Thursday.
Today's game: Augusta GreenJackets (13-9) vs. Capital City Bombers (10-12), 7:15 p.m., Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Probable starters: Bombers - RHP Steven Bennett (0-1, 0.98); Jackets - RHP Seung Song (2-0, 1.13).
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.