Augusta Team Report | May 31

With the first half title very much on the line, Augusta has responded with some big wins in recent days. But the biggest showdown comes this week. Can Augusta hold off Asheville?

CURRENT RECORD: 36-17 (.679), 1st in SAL Southern Division (0.5 Games ahead of 2nd place Asheville)

It's been building for weeks, and Augusta has responded well.  But now, the division is really on the line.

Augusta is finishing up a mid-week series with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the second place team in the SAL Northern division, and the GreenJackets have taken the key first two games of the series.  Meanwhile, the Asheville Tourists are just a half game behind them, and they've taken the first two from the 5th place Lexington Legends.

That is just setting up this weekend's showdown between the GreenJackets and Tourists.  The two division rivals play a four game series starting on Saturday.  The series is just the start, as the teams will meet for three more games the following week.

And as if that weren't enough, the series will be closely watched by the third place Columbus Catfish, who face neither the Tourists nor the GreenJackets again before the end of the first half, and could easily take the division as the two leaders wear themselves down.  The Catfish are just a half game out of second place.

The match-up between the two teams will be familiar for those who follow the Giants farm system.  Augusta's power has been in their pitching staff, who lead the South Atlantic League with a 2.49 ERA.  That matches up with Asheville, who are the league's highest scoring team.  The Tourists slug well, but not in over-the-fence ways, as they lead the league in doubles and triples.

But what could change the series is the other side, Augusta's hitters facing Asheville's pitchers.  Augusta is tied for 8th in the 16-team league in runs scored with 267, and are not an overwhelming offensive team.  Their league-leading stolen base total looks a lot smaller when more than a quarter of the total left when Brian Bocock was promoted.

The good news is that some of the players are coming into their own.  Second baseman Marcus Sanders has been a consistent performer this season, but has been hitting particularly well in the second half of May.  Outfielder Matt Weston has also turned it on recently, with hits in nine of his last ten games.  And Emmanuel Burriss looked like he was coming out of his offensive doldrums with a 4-for-5 game on Wednesday to bring his average up to .273.

Whatever happens, the next week and a half will determine the first half winner of the Southern Division.  It's going to take either Augusta or Asheville to dominate throughout to win.  Otherwise, if they just battle to a standstill, Columbus will probably take advantage and move past them both.

Player Of The Week: Adam Cowart

It's been a rough May all things considered for Adam Cowart.  Cowart dominated the month of April, but gave up 12 runs in six games overall in the month.  He finished the month off, however, with a sterling start against the Grasshoppers, taking a perfect game into the 7th inning, and going 8 1/3 innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run.

By The Numbers: 4

That's how many pitchers the GreenJackets have in the Top 10 ERA list in the South Atlantic League.  The league is led by Henry Sosa, who has a 0.76 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.  He is the only pitcher with an ERA under one.  Kevin Pucetas is third in the league with a 1.21 ERA in 52 innings, and Cowart and Clayton Tanner are back-to-back at 6th and 7th with a 1.87 ERA and a 1.97 ERA respectively.  Ben Snyder is sitting just outside the Top 10 at 12 overall at 2.25.  He is just 0.03 points behind the 10th best ERA.

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