Just when it appeared no one would have a shot at running down the Rome Braves for the season's first-half championship, the Augusta GreenJackets put a little hurry-up in their gait.
Trying like heck to rein in the Southern Division-leading Braves before the all-star break in two weeks, Augusta took four of five from the Asheville Tourists during the weekend at Lake Olmstead Stadium, narrowing the deficit to 6 games.
The GreenJackets will carry the momentum from a pair of Sunday wins, 6-2 and 3-2, into Rome for a key four-game set that begins tonight.
"I think this is (the best we've played)," Augusta manager Roberto Kelly said. "It's a good feeling to be playing this well going into the big series at Rome. It's going to be very important for us."
Eight of Augusta's final 14 games before the break - the first-half champion qualifies for the playoffs - come against Rome. Augusta's remaining six games are against last-place Kannapolis (12-43).
"We've got this big series, then seven at home, so I think if we do really well here, we should have a good chance of competing for the first-half championship," said pitcher Dan Griffin, who overcame several weeks worth of struggles to earn the win in Sunday's nightcap.
The GreenJackets (31-24) couldn't have picked a better time to face the South Atlantic League's top team, having won nine of their past 13 overall and 10 of their past 12 home games.
Rome lost to Savannah on Sunday to fall to 37-18.
"Winning this series the way we did, especially with the extra game, was really important," said David Maroul, who had a three-run home run and drove in the deciding four runs.
"All the guys feel really good right now with how we're playing."
In the first game, which was the completion of a suspended game from Friday, Sergio Romo took the hill with a carried-over 1-0 lead.
Though he gave up the tying run in the third, he left after five innings with a 3-2 lead and picked up the win. Romo is now 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA and is 3-0 in his three starts.
For the game, Mike Mooney was 2-for-3 with a RBI double, which came in Friday's first inning.
In the finale, Antoan Richardson's RBI triple and Ben Copeland's RBI single in the fourth turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 Augusta lead.
Asheville's Chris Nelson drove in the Tourists' first-inning run and another in the sixth off Griffin, who left after 5w innings with a 3-2 lead and the tying run on second. Wayne Foltin came on in relief and retired Asheville's final four batters to earn the save.
Griffin carried a one-hitter into the sixth and allowed two earned runs to pick up the win.
Asheville fell to 28-28.
NOTES: Infielder Hector Borg was called up to Augusta from extended spring training on Sunday. The 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic collected his first hit and stolen base for Augusta in the sixth inning of the second game. ... First baseman Pablo Sandoval (.256) sat out Sunday's games with a sore left wrist.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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