The Augusta GreenJackets behind a strong start from pitcher Sam Coonrad shut down the Hickory Crawdads 3-1 Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The two teams split the four-game series with Hickory (56-37 overall, 12-13 second half) taking the first two games before the GreenJackets (46-48, 13-12) won the final two games.
The right-handed Coonrad (6-3) – currently the 27th-ranked prospect of the San Francisco Giants by mlb.com – struck out six and allowed just one unearned run over eight innings. He retired the first 14 batters before Jairo Beras legged out a chopper behind the mound. Coonrod needed only 92 pitches before turning the game over to Carlos Diaz, who needed only eight pitches to retire the side for his second save.
The GreenJackets scored all they needed in the fourth against Nick Gardewine (5-7). Aramis Garcia crushed his 14th homer of the season, a solo blast over the fence in left.
Jonah Arenado then singled to center and scored on Skyler Ewing’s double to the wall in center.
An odd series of sequences led to the GreenJackets final run of the game in the fifth. With one out, Richardo Rodriguez hit an 0-2 fastball from Kelvin Vasquez to right. Johneshwy Fargas squibbed a slow roller behind the mound. Second baseman Brallan Perez fielded the play and made the quick throw to first for the out with Rodriguez going to second. The next batter, Travious Relaford, hit a sharp comebacker to Vasquez, who deflected the ball to shortstop Juremi Profar. Relaford beat the play at first with Rodriguez coming all the way home to score.
Hickory’s lone run came after two were out in the eighth. Profar bounced a single just over the glove of Jonah Arenado at third and then scored when first baseman Chase Compton misplayed Rock Shoulders’ roller for an error.
Luke Tendler: Was the lone Crawdads hitter to square up Coonrad when he turned on a fastball and sent it to the rightfield corner. Had the best battle of the night with a 9-pitch AB in the second that ended in a flyout to center.
Scott Williams: Struck out three in the ninth, missing four bats – three on fastballs – in the inning. Pounded the strike zone at 94-96, struck out Compton on a slider.
Erik Swanson: Pitched a scoreless eighth inning, with a seeing-eye single to Jonah Arenado. Fastball 91-92 with a slider that Skyler Ewing tried to pull, which ended in a 5-3 grounder.
Juremi Profar: The second-straight, strong defense game. Showed a quick glove-to-hand transfer when he fielded a quick short-hop of the bat of Johneshhy Fargas and turned it into a 6-4-3 double play.
Lineup: A tough night for the lineup against Coonrad. Only three balls went to the outfield before Tendler’s rope in the eighth.
Nick Gardewine: The Crawdads right-hander actually had a groove at times. Lost command of the fastball briefly in the first, then settled in to a comfort level in the second and third. Garcia attacked a get-me-over fastball from Gardewine for the homer. Gardewine then left back-to-back sliders up that Arenado and Ewing punished.
Kelvin Vasquez: Threw 95-97 during his three innings of work. Let an 0-2 fastball catch the plate that Rodriguez dunked into right to set up the final insurance run.
Sam Coonrod: Methodically kept the Crawdads off balance throughout the night. Threw mostly 4-seamers in the opening innings that were 94-96, touching 98. The second time through the order was reserved for a two-seamer (91-93), or what Coonrod called a short-slider. Both pitches were kept down, which the Crawdads hitters – unable to time either pitch selection – beat into the ground. Coonrad offered a couple of sliders, but he didn’t really need to pull out much in the way of secondaries. Tendler saw a good many of the sliders in his second AB – a 9-pitch appearance that ended when he sent a 95 mph to center.
Coonrod finished with 92 pitches (65 strikes), but started to tire in the eighth as he started leaving pitches up.
Aramis Garcia: Crushed a fastball middle-in for the solo homer. Showed a willingness to take pitches the other way, as the Crawdads pitchers kept the ball away from him throughout the night.
Jonah Arenado: Made a couple of tough short-hop plays to keep Coonrod’s fledgling perfect-game bid alive. Spanked a slider up from Gardewine for a single and showed good speed coming around to score from first on Ewing’s double to right-center. Didn’t have the best luck at the plate this weekend, especially on Sunday when he lined hard to third and to the mound in back-to-back ABs. Showed quick hands throughout the series.
Coonrod when asked about using the two-seamer the second time through the order:
“I started thinking they might have been cheating a little bit with the fastball, so I threw a few more sliders.”
Coonrod when asked about whether he could’ve pitched the ninth.
“I was definitely hoping to get through the ninth, but whatever they say is best.”
Coonrod on Beras’ infield single in the fifth that ended a possible perfect-game bid.
“It aggravated me a little bit but it’s like you’ve got to move on.”
Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale on Coonrod:
“He was pretty good, but we didn’t really help ourselves or come out. It didn’t seem like we came out ready to play, to be honest. Not a lot of energy tonight. It didn’t look like we had a lot of fight, to be honest. We kind of challenged them there after the game moving forward. Obviously, he did have good stuff going on and that made it for easy work when we didn’t put up much of a fight.”