It has become second nature to Brian Adams this season.
Enter a close game. Hold a lead. Keep it tight. Give the Augusta GreenJackets a chance to win.
Adams has done that on most nights, proving to be one of the steadiest middle relievers in the South Atlantic League this season. But the 23-year-old left-hander didn't get the job done Friday, and the Jackets fell 4-3 to the Wilmington Waves at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"Come in and try to do a job every night, and sometimes it just doesn't fall into place," Adams said. "When you pitch middle relief, you're going to be in a close game or a tie game almost every time, so there's not much room for mistakes. Tonight, things just didn't go my way."
The former Clemson starter and Bishopville, S.C., native took over for starter Rich Rundles in the eighth inning with the game tied at 2. But he quickly was in a jam. Adams ended up surrendering two runs on three hits and committed a key error in his lone inning of work, taking the loss to fall 8-5.
Adams, who leads SAL relievers in victories and has the most wins on the Augusta staff, got his 2001 season off to a remarkable start. He opened his first full pro season with a 6-1 mark and 0.76 ERA in his first 10 relief appearances.
Boston's eighth-round draft pick last year struggled a bit in June, going 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA, but had rebounded with three straight strong outings to open the month of July.
After Rundles worked seven strong innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits, Adams took over in the eighth and gave up an infield single to Columbus native Reggie Abercrombie leading off. His hurried throw to first base was wild and bounded down the right-field line. That allowed Abercrombie to motor to second, and he later scored on a single by all-star game MVP Koyie Hill to give the Waves a 3-2 lead.
After advancing to second on a groundout, Hill stole third - one of Wilmington's eight stolen bases - and came home on a throwing error by catcher Brian Esposito to make it 4-2.
The loss ended the Jackets' four-game winning streak, their longest of the second half. As for the Waves, they were playing their first game since Monday following an off-day Tuesday and rainouts the past two days. The layoff didn't show in their bats, legs or arms.
Loaded with some of the top prospects in the Dodgers' organization, Wilmington stroked nine hits, played solid defense and got strong mound work from starter Joel Hanrahan and two relievers to improve to 11-8 on the second half.
Aaron Andrews (1-1) was perfect in two innings of middle relief to notch the victory. He faced the minimum six batters.
"When I was a starter, I overlooked how important middle relief was," Adams said. "In a sense, it's more important that the closer's role."
That fact certainly held true Friday.
Waves 4, GreenJackets 3
Player of the game: Wilmington's Ronte Langs went 3-for-4 with three stolen bases.
Turning point: The Waves take a 3-2 lead in the eighth off reliever Brian Adams on an RBI-single by Koyie Hill.
Ballpark Fun: Children 12-and-under received a free GreenJackets cap.
Today's game: Wilmington Waves (48-41) vs. Augusta GreenJackets (52-39), 7:15 p.m.
Probable starters: Wilmington - RHP Andre Simpson (8-3, 2.09); Augusta - LHP Mauricio Lara (1-3, 2.34).
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org