The Sand Gnats picked a great time, the best time, to play two of their most complete games of the year to finish off a two game sweep of the Augusta GreenJackets.
Savannah outscored Augusta 15-2 in the series in which Gnats’ pitching struck out 19 batters and walked only one.
Steven Matz started Friday; I’ve never seen him better. He faced one over the minimum in his seven innings with eight strikeouts, one single and no walks. He threw first pitch strikes to 18 of his 22 batters and needed just 78 pitches to get through seven innings. For a guy who has struggled to locate at times this year, his command, and simple ability to pitch ahead, made him better.
He attacked inside with his fastball especially to right handers. He threw changeups that induced silly-looking swings. He used his curveball both to finish off hitters and steal first pitch strikes.
As Matz told MiLB.com about his curveball and his pitching plan:
“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.”
For the second game in a row, the big swing was a bases-loaded extra base hit. This time, CF Brandon Nimmo ripped a triple to right field over the outstretched glove of Augusta RF Chuckie Jones. Notably, Nimmo, patient by nature attacked the first pitch of the at bat, and hit it on the screws. He finished 2-3 with a bunt single in the first inning, and a walk in the third. He finished the two games against Augusta 4-7, with two walks, a run and four RBI.
2B Dilson Herrera was 1-4 with a single through the left side in the first inning.
The Gnats await the winner of the Northern Division Championship Series in which West Virginia and Hagerstown are tied 1-1 heading to game three Saturday.