The Augusta GreenJackets pitching staff has little margin for error these days, given an offense that ranks last in the South Atlantic League in hitting.
But on this long, miserable evening at Lake Olmstead Stadium, Jackets pitchers had no right to complain about a lack of run support.
The Savannah Sand Gnats pitchers, on the other hand, had plenty of reason to smile. Their lineup supported them in a big way, pounding the Jackets to the tune of a 12-0 victory in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday.
On the receiving end of the thrashing was starter Manny Delcarmen (0-4), who endured his worst outing as a pro. The Augusta bullpen didn't fare much better, as Savannah collected a season-high 14 hits to hand the Jackets (16-16) their third loss in four games.
No. 9 hitter Rashad Eldridge, a Macon native and former University of Georgia signee, led the barrage with a 3-for-4, two-RBI night. After opening the season 1-14, including a 13-game losing skid, the Sand Gnats (11-21) have won eight of their past 11 games.
"That's why baseball's a great game; one night you come out and you can't do anything right, and the next night, you get to try again," Jackets manager Arnie Beyeler said. "You've got to tip your hat to (the Sand Gnats). They came out, down at the bottom of the league in hitting like us, and they swung the bats and pitched well."
Delcarmen was a mere shadow of the pitcher who overpowered SAL hitters to open the season. Rated the fourth-best prospect in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America, the 20-year-old right-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struggled with his command and pitched behind in the count most of the night.
"We talked afterward a bit about getting back on track and doing the things that got him here," Beyeler said. "His mechanics are off right now. But he's a hard-working kid. He'll be fine."
After Delcarmen's early exit, things went from bad to worse. After retiring the first three batters he faced, reliever Josh Thigpen walked the next four Sand Gnats, including a bases-loaded free pass to Clemson product Patrick Boyd.
Reliever Kevin Huang took over for Thigpen, but he couldn't stop the bleeding, either. The Sand Gnats scored four more runs - one earned - off Huang in 1 1/3 innings, making it 12-0.
Meanwhile, three Sand Gnats pitchers combined to hold the Jackets to four hits, with reliever A.J. Murray (3-2) picking up the victory.
Starter Tony Mounce, who pitched at Triple-A Oklahoma last season, tossed four innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts in his first start of the season. He was removed after reaching his pitch limit.
NOTES: Reliever Charlie Weatherby was activated from the disabled list Tuesday, while first baseman Matt Cooper went on the DL with a strained finger ligament. Cooper had missed the past 10 games since suffering the injury April 26. ... The Red Sox also reassigned infielder John Hattig from high-A Sarasota to Augusta on Tuesday, while sending sent reliever Charlie Zink to extended spring training. Hattig spent the final two months of the season with the Jackets last season. ... SAL president John H. Moss attended the game. ... Eldridge, originally drafted in the fifth round by Cleveland in 2000, was acquired by Texas in April for outfielder Chris Magruder. He attended First Presbyterian School in Macon, the same high school as reliever John Rocker, and was rated the eighth-best prospect in the short-season Appalachian League last season. ... Savannah outfielder Brad Stockton played at Georgia Tech and is a product of Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga.
Sand Gnats 12, Jackets 0
Turning point: Savannah blew open the game with a four-run fifth inning against Augusta starter Manny Delcarmen.
Big bat: No. 9 hitter Rashad Eldridge, a Macon native, went 3-for-4 with two RBI for the Gnats.
Top gun: Savannah starter Tony Mounce pitched four innings of one-hit ball.
For the record: WP - A.J. Murray (3-2). LP - Delcarmen (0-4). Save - None.
Tonight: Sand Gnats (RHP Luis Rodriguez 2-1, 4.82) vs. Jackets (RHP Rafael Sanchez 2-2, 3.62), 7:15, Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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