Last season the Augusta GreenJackets learned first-hand from the Lakewood BlueClaws that it takes dominant starting pitching to win the South Atlantic League championship.
Augusta's rotation last year was one of the most consistent in the league, but it paled in comparison to Lakewood's "big three" of Josh Outman, Carlos Carrasco and Matt Maloney. Each had among the top five ERAs in the league, and they shut down the GreenJackets in the short final series.
This season, if Augusta's top starters aren't promoted within the San Francisco Giants system, the GreenJackets might be the most-feared team in the postseason.
Kevin Pucetas, Ben Snyder and Adam Cowart are ranked No. 1, 2 and 5 in ERA, respectively, and their fourth starter, Clayton Tanner, is No. 10.
"Right now, pretty much all our guys could be called an ace," manager Roberto Kelly said. "It's unbelievable what they're doing. Right now we feel like we can throw anybody out there and know we can win."
Augusta entered Monday with a team 2.64 ERA, the second-best in the minors, just 0.01 behind Double-A Trenton's 2.63.
"Even if we give up two, three runs, we know we're still in it," said Tanner, who struck out a career-high nine batters Sunday in his first win since mid-June.
HOME SWEET HOME: Sunday's win over Kannapolis was Augusta's eighth consecutive at home, pushing its record at Lake Olmstead to 39-9, best in the SAL. The GreenJackets have won more than 80 percent of their home games.
HOT STREAK: Speedy center fielder Mike McBryde, the Giants' No. 12-rated prospect, is on a career-high 11 game hitting streak. He was 19-for-40 (.475) over that span to raise his average from .250 to .280.
As a team, the GreenJackets are hitting .283 in July to raise their average to .266. That's fifth-best in the 16-team SAL.
NOT-SO-HOT: All-Star closer Juan Trinidad, who has converted all but two save opportunities and is second in the SAL with 18 saves, struggled last weekend.
He allowed ninth-inning home runs to Kannapolis' Brandon Allen and Chris Carter on Saturday, and allowed another ninth-inning run Sunday.
SEVEN-UP: The GreenJackets saw their season-high string of seven consecutive games with a home run end Sunday. Augusta hit 10 homers in those seven games.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216