Luis Mendoza threw 35 pitches. In the first inning.
For the beleaguered Augusta GreenJackets pitching staff, it was the precursor to another long and wild evening. It also was the first six weeks of the 2003 season in a nutshell, an all-too familiar scene for a ballclub that can't figure out how to enjoy the fruits of its labor.
Augusta's 11-4 loss Friday to the Charleston RiverDogs, which opened a three-game series at Lake Olmstead Stadium, was long, as in long ball. The visitors belted four home runs, including two by slugging first baseman John-Paul Davis.
And it was wild, as in 11 walks issued by Jackets pitchers, including five to Charleston cleanup hitter Adam Bonner, one shy of the South Atlantic League record.
The RiverDogs continued one of the best starts in franchise history. Charleston has had one winning season in 14 years, and at 20-13, it appears the talented collection of Tampa Bay Devil Rays farmhands is well on its way toward bucking that trend.
"We do a lot of things well," said Bonner, who entered the game batting .290 with five home runs and 17 RBI. "We've got great players, patient players, and we play good defense and have a great pitching staff. You can't ask for much more than that."
The struggling Jackets are enduring a frustrating trend of their own. Augusta (11-22) has dropped two straight, six of its past seven and 13 of its past 16.
It started with Mendoza, who was making his second start since joining the Jackets from extended spring training two weeks ago.
By the time he reached the third inning, Mendoza's pitch count was in the 70s, and it caught up to the 19-year-old right-hander.
Mendoza (0-1) allowed two hits but walked five in two-plus innings. He was charged with four earned runs and the loss. The RiverDogs reached him and reliever Brian Esposito for six runs in the third, including the first of Davis' two homers.
"I got a couple of good pitches to hit tonight and stuck with it," Davis said.
Esposito walked three in three innings, and Dan Generelli walked three more in 1 2/3 innings before Parker Friske took over and didn't walk a batter during the final 2 1/3 .
Friske, however, served up home runs to Trae Duncan and the second of the night for Davis, whose seven homers ties him for the SAL lead.
Augusta's SAL-worst ERA swelled from 5.26 to 5.41. The 11 walks is the most allowed in one game in the league this season.
"Five walks in a game; I'm either real patient or real lucky," Bonner said.
Right now, patience and luck are things the Jackets sure could use.
RiverDogs 11, Jackets 4
TURNING POINT: Charleston scored six runs in the third inning off starter Luis Mendoza and reliever Brian Esposito, capped by a three-run home run by Nate Dion.
BIG BAT: Charleston's John-Paul Davis went 3-for-6 with a two home runs and three RBI.
TOP GUN: Charleston starter Scott Autrey became the SAL's second five-game winner, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings.
FOR THE RECORD: WP-Autrey (5-0). LP-Mendoza (0-1). Save-None.
TODAY'S GAME: Game 2 of 3 - Jackets vs. Charleston, 7:15 p.m., at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
TONIGHT'S PROBABLES: CHARLESTON - LHP Jeff Ridgeway (0-2, 3.43); AUGUSTA - RHP Kevin Huang (0-0, 6.92).
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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