Savannah 5, Augusta 0
Behind a brilliant pitching performance, the Savannah Sand Gnats blanked the Augusta GreenJackets 5-0 Friday night at Historic Grayson Stadium to sweep the best-of-three Southern Division Championship Series two games to none. Savannah outscored Augusta 15-2 in the two games.
Savannah pitchers recorded 19 strikeouts against just one walk in the two-game sweep.
Starter Steven Matz faced one over the minimum in his seven innings in which he retired 21 of the 22 batters he faced. He threw first pitch strikes to 18 of 22 opposing hitters, struck out eight and did not issue a walk. Paul Sewaldworked around an infield single in the eighth and Beck Wheeler retired the side in order in the ninth.
Savannah broke the game open with a three run third inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, centerfielderBrandon Nimmo drilled a triple up the right-centerfield gap to score three runs to put Savannah ahead 4-0.
Nimmo was 2-for-3 and 4-for-7 with four RBI in the series. Pina, who was 2-for-3, reached base three times for the second straight game from the leadoff spot.
In the seventh, De La Cruz’s triple to left-center scored Pina for a 5-0 lead.
Four of the Gnats’ seven hits Friday went for extra-bases, including three triples.
The Gnats will begin the South Atlantic League Championship Series at the home of the Northern Division Champion Monday night. Game two will be Tuesday.
After an off-day Wednesday, the series will shift to Savannah for Game three on Thursday. If necessary, games four and five will be Friday and Saturday nights in Savannah.
Thoughts from Satish
Savannah received excellent pitching from both Gabriel Ynoa and Steven Matz in their consecutive victories over Augusta. However, I wanted to take a minute to focus on Matz and his stellar work for Savannah. He finished the year with a 2.62 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 106.1 innings — a 10.2 K/9 rate.
He allowed just a single hit last night over seven shutout innings while striking out eight, effectively making arguably his best start of the year in Savannah’s most important game of the year The native New Yorker is an easy guy to come to appreciate, and he seems to have a solid grasp of the game. Here’s Matz post-game:
“Usually, the first time around, I try to establish the fastball. The second time around, I’ll try mixing in some first-pitch breaking balls, and that’s been huge for me. Since that [curveball] has developed, and it’s really come along the past four outings, I’ve been throwing that first-pitch breaking ball for a strike.
It’s really showed its benefits, like today. I threw a couple of them and the changeup, too, the second and third time around. I’ve been using everything lately.”
Well, when you throw the kind of heat that Matz does, it’s easy to see why he would pitch the way he does. Honestly, he sounds like he’s a confident pitcher right now and he definitely should be. A part of me wishes they would skip St. Lucie and toss him into Binghamton next year because of his lost time recovering from injury, but I’ll learn to be patient.