It took more than three months, 87 games and nine starts, but Mauricio Lara finally notched his first victory of 2001.
Plagued by back problems earlier in the season and victimized by a lack of run support from his teammates, Lara had his health and plenty of offensive help Sunday in the Augusta GreenJackets' 8-2 victory over the Delmarva Shorebirds in a six-inning game shortened by rain.
Lara allowed six hits and two unearned runs in six innings with one walk and three strikeouts. The 22-year-old left-hander ran his record to 1-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.34, as the Jackets snapped a two-game losing skid and won for only the second time in six games.
"It's nice to finally get that first win," said Lara, who was hailed in the preseason as one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization. "It's great to feel healthy again. My arm feels good, my back feels good. There's nothing like feeling healthy."
After averaging just three runs in Lara's first eight starts, the struggling Jackets snapped out of their recent funk with a six-run sixth. They sent 10 batters to the plate, as a two-run single by Raul Nieves, RBI-doubles by Justin Sherrod and Brian Esposito and an RBI-single by Kenny Perez gave them a six-run cushion.
Reliever Franklin Francisco came on to pitch the seventh inning and ran into some trouble before the rain saved him.
The Shorebirds loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an error by catcher Brian Esposito before home-plate umpire Joe Judkowitz halted play as lightning, rain and gusty winds intensified.
Because of the wind, the Jackets' staff was unable to cover the infield with the tarp. After 15 minutes, Judkowitz bagged the contest, which became official after the Shorebords batted in the fifth.
Lara is credited with a complete game, the Jackets' first this season. The Shorebirds' seventh inning is wiped out statistically, meaning Francisco does not get credit for his appearance.
"It feels great to get Mauricio that first win," said Jackets first baseman Dustin Brisson, who went 3-for-4 with one RBI. "He deserves it. He's a great pitcher who works very hard and is a great clubhouse guy. It's nice to be able to score him some runs for a change."
GreenJackets 8, Shorebirds 2, 6 innings.
Player of the game: Mauricio Lara (1-3) pitched six shutout innings, allowing six hits and no earned runs to pick up his first win of 2001, and Dustin Brisson went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Turning point: The Jackets broke open a 2-2 game with six runs in the sixth inning, as they sent 10 batters to the plate and cashed in on a two-run single by Raul Nieves, RBI-doubles by Justin Sherrod and Brian Esposito and an RBI-single by Kenny Perez.
Today's game: Delmarva Shorebirds (39-46) vs. Augusta GreenJackets (48-39), 7:15 p.m.
Probable starters: Delmarva - RHP Richard Bartlett (2-2, 3.35); Augusta - RHP Tony Fontana (1-2, 2.09).
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org