Given the countless peaks and valleys a manager must contend with over the course of a 142-game schedule, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who handles the undulating world of minor-league baseball better than GreenJackets skipper Mike Boulanger.
But the laid-back Oklahoman is only human. He reached his boiling point Saturday night in the Jackets' 5-2 loss to the Columbus RedStixx, as an umpire played a significant role in the outcome for a second straight night.
Less than 24 hours after umpire Steve Berry suspended Friday's game against Macon because of rain - the Jackets were just one out away from making it an official contest and recording a 3-2 win - Boulanger was ejected after arguing the second of two questionable calls by home-plate ump Josh Miller.
The latter of those calls in the seventh inning led to the winning RedStixx rally.
"You try to handle it as best you can and sometimes I don't handle it as good as maybe I wish I did," Boulanger said. "I think I'm pretty laid back with the players, and I try to be with the umpires. They have a job to do and so do we. All you can do is forget about it, make sure our players are concentrating on the game, and move on."
The call in question came after Columbus' Corey Smith reached on an error by third baseman Tony Blanco leading off the seventh.
With one out, designated hitter Nate Janowicz laced a pitch from Jackets reliever Brian Adams (8-7) down the third-base line. Miller signaled it fair, and Janowicz had an RBI-double, tying the game at 2.
Boulanger, who thought the ball went foul, emerged from the dugout, engaged in a heated exchange with Miller and was ejected.
The Stixx took a 3-2 lead two batters later on an RBI-single by Eric Crozier.
"It was about that much foul," said Blanco, indicating a space of about four inches with his index finger and thumb.
One inning earlier, Boulanger protested when Miller called Kenny Perez out at home after the shortstop tried to score from second on a single by Antron Seiber.
Boulanger thought Perez beat the throw home by left fielder Willy Tavares and slid around catcher Edgar Cruz's tag.
The loss was the kicker to two bizarre and frustrating nights for the Jackets.
True to form, the 51-year-old Boulanger took it in stride.
"I think we do a pretty good job of handling adversity," Boulanger said. "You've got to focus on the game and development. Even in losses, there's development. It can't be all about winning and losing here. It's about developing players for the Boston Red Sox. That's how we have to approach our work tomorrow."
RedStixx 5, GreenJackets 2
Player of the game: Shortstop Kenny Perez went 2-for-3 with an RBI and made an acrobatic diving play in the hole between short and third base to rob RedStixx catcher Edgar Cruz of a base hit in the top of the sixth inning.
Turning point: The RedStixx cashed in on a costly error by Jackets third baseman Tony Blanco and a questionable call by home-plate ump Josh Miller to take the lead with two runs in the seventh off reliever Brian Adams.
Ballpark fun: Quick, somebody get on the horn and call the folks at the Guinness Book of Records. The largest contingent of braces-wearing, retainer-clad fans in the storied history of minor-league baseball attended Saturday's game, courtesy of local orthodontist Steven Powell.
Today's game: Columbus RedStixx (20-16) vs. Augusta GreenJackets (16-19), 7:15 p.m.
Probable starters: Columbus - LHP Brandon Matheny (5-4, 2.97); Augusta - RHP Rene Miniel (6-3, 3.68).
Promotion: Family Fun Pack Sunday (Families of four receive four tickets, four hot dogs, four drinks, four bags of chips, two programs, one mini-bat and one logo ball for only $29 with a coupon in The Augusta Chronicle.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
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