By Sam Weiderhaft
Both starting pitchers combined for 21 strikeouts and no runs allowed
The Augusta GreenJackets scored two runs in the bottom of the eight to break a 1-1 tie and win game one 3-1 over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Wednesday was the first game for Myrtle Beach since last Saturday after Sunday and Tuesday’s games were postponed.
The loss brings the Pelicans back to the .500 mark at 15-15, while the GreenJackets improve to 14-17.
The game was dominated by the starting pitchers with Manuel Espinoza striking out a career-high 10 batters through five shutout innings. The 10 strikeouts are the most by a Pelican pitcher this season, beating nine punchouts by DJ Herz last Thursday.
On the Augusta side, Joey Estes threw one out shy of six shutout innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts and no walks. Estes only allowed three hits in his outing.
The decisions went to the relievers, with Lisandro Santos (2-1) earning the win and Joe Nahas (2-1) taking the loss.
The Pelicans lineup only totaled one run on five hits. Luis Verdugo (2-3) knocked a base hit in his third-straight game, while Yohendrick Pinango (2-4) posted his ninth multi-hit performance of the season. Pablo Aliendo (0-3, SO) saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end in Augusta.
The GreenJackets collected six hits to their three runs. Braulio Vasquez (1-3, 2 RBI) led Augusta with a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning. Vaughn Grissom (2-4, R) was the only GreenJacket with multiple hits in the series opener.
The starting pitchers were dominant from the opening frame, with Estes and Espinoza both fanning two batters apiece in their halves.
Estes struck out two more Pelicans in the top of the second, and after Espinoza walked a batter to lead off the bottom half, he struck out the following three to bring his total to five punchouts after two innings.
Espinoza was taken out of the game after five innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts and just three hits allowed.
The Pelicans threatened in the bottom of the sixth with Pinango hitting a two-out triple to center field to bring himself to scoring position. That was the last batter Estes faced, as he was relieved after an 11-strikeout night. Alec Barger came out of the bullpen and hit Aliendo to put runners at the corners, only to force Matt Mervis to fly out and end the inning.
The GreenJackets got on the board first in their half of the sixth. Danis Correa came into the game for Myrtle Beach and gave up a single to Grissom to lead it off. Landon Stephens came up next and lined a hit to left-centerfield for a double that scored Grissom and put Augusta in front 1-0. The following three batters were retired to end the inning.
The first Myrtle Beach run didn’t come until the eighth inning when Ezequiel Pagan walked on Santos to lead it off. Flemin Bautista hit a hard ground ball that skipped into left field to put runners on the corners to begin the inning. Pinango followed by grounding into a double play to the middle infielders that scored Pagan and evened the game at one.
Augusta took control with a two-run bottom half. Stephens led off the inning by reaching base on a ground ball to short that Fabian Pertuz threw wild to first. Willie Carter was then hit by a pitch from Nahas to put two runners on with nobody out. After the next two batters were retired, Brandon Parker walked to lead up the bases. Vasquez followed by taking an 0-2 pitch to center field for a go-ahead two-run single to give the GreenJackets a 3-1 lead.
The Pelicans were retired in order in the ninth inning with two strikeouts for Santos.
Myrtle Beach and Augusta will meet for a doubleheader tomorrow with game one starting at 5:05. Tuesday’s postponed game will be made up as both contests being seven-innings.