Last week, the Augusta GreenJackets handed the Rome Braves their first home loss. Thanks to the pitching of Joe Martinez and the hitting of Eugenio Velez on Sunday afternoon, Augusta now has the opportunity to hand the South Atlantic League's best team its first series loss of the season as well.
Martinez and three relievers held the Braves in check, and Velez went 2-for-3 with a two-RBI double in Augusta's five-run fifth inning to lead the GreenJackets to a 6-1 victory.
The GreenJackets can take the four-game series today by beating the Braves in a 7:05 p.m. contest at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"Any time you take two of three at the beginning of a series is good, especially against these guys," said Martinez, who allowed one run and five hits in 5w innings. "It's always nice to get off to a good start, but we really want to win tomorrow and take the series. To finish it up 2-2 would be a bit disappointing."
Martinez struck out five Braves and moved to 2-0 on the season with the victory, which lowered his ERA to 2.93 and moved Augusta (11-10) within 5 games of Southern Division-leading Rome (17-5).
"(Augusta's) got a good club, a well-rounded club," said Rome manager Randy Ingle, in his 28th year in the Braves organization. "They've got speed, they've got some guys that can really swing the sticks and their pitching's been good."
Augusta's Alex Requena went 1-for-3, giving him a hit in 11 consecutive home games and a 16-game streak of reaching base safely.
Ben Copeland, Pablo Sandoval and Mike Mooney each had hits for Augusta - all in the fifth - but it was Velez's bases-loaded, two-out double to right that started the big inning.
"I'm feeling good right now, just trying to be in the game," said Velez, who raised his average to .333. "I'm thinking I'm going to hit the ball, drive it, and bring some guys home."
Rome's Jairo Cuevas kept Augusta's hitters off balance early, carrying a perfect game into the fifth.
Mooney broke up the no-hit bid with a single to center, and Anthony Contreras and Jon Armitage followed with walks to load the bases. Velez's two-out double to right plated Mooney and Contreras for a 2-0 lead. Requena's infield single scored Armitage, and Copeland's single to center scored Velez. Sandoval drove in Requena with a single to left, making it 5-0.
The five hits and five runs in the inning all went to Cuevas, who took his first loss of the season.
Martinez was pulled in the top of the sixth after giving up a double to Kala Ka'aihue and a walk to Cody Clark. Matt Minor came on and threw eight consecutive balls - the first a wild pitch that scored Ka'aihue from third. Osiris Matos replaced Minor and struck out Ovandy Suero to end the inning.
Matos loaded the bases in the seventh but struck out Brandon Monk and Cody Clark to close the frame.
The GreenJackets tacked on a run in the seventh to go ahead 6-1. Stanley loaded the bases for cleanup hitter Jose Yens, whose sacrifice fly to right scored Velez.
The Braves loaded the bases in the ninth, but Augusta reliever Bryan Millikan got Jamie Romak to fly out to center and struck out Quentin Davis to secure the win.
Elvis Andrus, the No. 2 prospect in the Braves organization, went 2-for-5.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.