For just a moment, it looked like the Rome Braves might surprise the Augusta GreenJackets in their short, 3 game first round series. It didn’t last.
Augusta starter Joe Martinez gave up a two out home run to Braves third baseman Erick Campbell in the first inning, giving Rome a 1-0 lead. But he settled down and pitched like the rotation leader he was all year, and the Augusta GreenJackets won Game 1 with a score of 4-2.
Martinez, who is just the second player in Augusta franchise history to win 15 games in a season (the 2nd most in the SAL in 2006), was hard on himself despite getting the win. "I've had better nights," he said. "It's tough to get behind early - it's not fun. But our hitters responded really well and (Quinowski) and Matos shut 'em down.” Martinez hasn’t lost since mid-July.
The hitters did respond, but it was with their legs as much as with their bats. The GreenJackets stole 4 bases on 5 attempts on the night, including a dramatic play in the 3rd inning.
Augusta led off their half of the inning with back to back singles by Brian Bocock and Antoan Richardson, and then a walk to Ben Copeland to load the bases with nobody out. SAL MVP Eugenio Velez followed with a 2 RBI single. But two fly outs left runners at the corners with two down. With David Maroul at the plate, Copeland and Velez pulled off a double steal, with Copeland stealing home to extend the GreenJackets lead to 3-1.
A double by Anthony Contreras in the 4th came ahead of a Richardson single to score Augusta’s fourth run. "In the playoffs, it's always good to get that first punch, to get that first win under your belt," Contreras said after the game.
Augusta manager Roberto Kelly agreed. "This was a big win, a big win, Now we don't have to go up there and win two in a row," he said.
Osiris Matos, who was briefly promoted to Double-A Connecticut at the end of the season, returned for the playoffs and resumed his role as closer. Matos had a 3.72 ERA with 2 saves in 6 games in Double-A, while collecting 13 saves with a 1.76 ERA for Augusta in 2006.The two teams will have Thursday off before resuming the series in Rome on Friday. If necessary, Game 3 will take place in Rome on Saturday.
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