We're now a week and a half into the season, which means we're getting to the point where batting average are more likely to hover around .280 than .500 or .100. And now we're reaching the point where the question becomes whether Roberto Kelly's Augusta GreenJackets will ever lose.
Low Class A
Augusta is now a perfect 11-0, as Adam Cowart continued the GreenJackets amazing run with six shutout innings to beat Charleston 4-0 on Sunday. The start sets an Augusta record, and is easily the best in pro baseball this season. Manager Roberto Kelly led the GreenJackets to the South Atlantic League championship last season, but this year's group has been even better, thanks to an outstanding pitching staff (1.02 ERA). Cowart's been a big part of that. He's 3-0, with a 1.06 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk in 17 innings. Shortstop Brian Bockock and left fielder Tyler Graham have been key to the winning streak as well. Bockock, who went 3-for-4 on Sunday, leads the minors with 12 stolen bases, while Graham, who went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, is second in the minors with nine steals.
The only team that could equal the GreenJackets' start is the Dayton Dragons. Dayton has started a perfect 6-0 as they keep picking up wins around rain and snow outs. The Dragons' ace Sean Watson allowed one run in five innings and five hits while Justin Turner, Drew Stubbs and Chris Valaika all had multi-hit games.
Low Class A also is the home of the team with the worst start in the minors. The Rome Braves dropped to 1-10 as they were swept on Sunday.
Burlington shut down Kane County's bats to sweep a doubleheader on Sunday. Mario Santiago and Tyler Chambliss' combined for a two-hit shutout in the opener, while Matt Campbell and Aaron Hartsock combined on a three-hitter in the nightcap.
Zach Dials threw five shutout innings to continue Lansing's impressive run of pitching–Lugnuts starters have allowed five runs in six starts.
High Class A
Michael Bowden and Miguel Pinango locked up in a rare California League pitcher's duel. Bowden, one of the Red Sox' best pitching prospects, allowed two hits hits while striking out five in 5 2/3 innings. Blake DeWitt tripled and scored in the 12th to give Inland Empire the 1-0 win.
Manny Ayala allowed only three hits and one run while striking out eight in 7 2/3 innings to lead Lake Elsinore to a 4-1 win over High Desert. The Padres signed Ayala out of the independent Golden Baseball League two years ago. The 22-year-old has looked outstanding this season, going 1-1, 1.50 in his first three starts, with 14 strikeouts and four walks in 18 innings.
Rancho Cucamonga kept San Jose catcher Pablo Sandoval busy during the Quakes' sweep on Sunday. Rancho Cucamonga stole five bases of Sandoval in the opener of Sunday's doubleheader. But they were also thrown out three times and had another three baserunners picked off.First baseman Patrick Reilly was the biggest offender–he was caught stealing twice and was also picked off twice. Brok Butcher pitched a four-hitter in the nightcap as the Quakes settled down to steal only one base.
Justin Upton's struggles continue–he had two more strikeouts on an 0-for-4 night Sunday. He's now hitting .152/.310/.242 with two extra-base hits and no stolen bases in 33 at-bats. The rest of the Oaks were also shut down by fill-in starter Luis Ramirez in a 9-1 Stockton win.
Drew Carpenter, the Phillies' second-round pick in 2006, shut down Lakeland with seven shutout innings on Sunday.
Dante Brinkley's two home runs gave Jupiter an early lead, but he lost a fly ball in the lights which helped lead to Daytona's five-run rally in a 7-6 Cubs win.
Jay Bruce hasn't homered yet, but don't worry about his power. He picked up his third triple of the season on Sunday to help Sarasota to a 6-3 win over Tampa. Travis Wood picked up the win for the Reds, but his command has been a concern–he walked another four on Sunday to give him seven walks in 8 1/3 innings this season.
Poor weather wiped out all but five games in Double-A action on Sunday. Bobby Wilson went 3-for-3 with a home run as Arkansas knocked off Midland.
Mitchell Boggs was roughed up for seven hits and seven runs (four earned) on Sunday. Frisco's Kevin Richardson hit a pair of home runs in a 17-8 win.
John Manuel made the comment last week that it's about time to work Adam Miller into the conversation with Philip Hughes and Homer Bailey when talking about the minors best pitching prospects. Miller lived up to those expectations on Sunday when he threw a complete-game (seven-inning) six-hitter to beat Columbus. Miller did his work on a day where high winds meant it felt like it was 20 degrees on the mound.
Durham's Jason Hammel's third consecutive outstanding start finally earned him a win. Hammel struck out nine in 6 2/3 scoreless innings to shut out Toledo in the second-game of a doubleheader. Hammel had allowed one run in 10 innings in his first two starts, including one game he left with a no-hitter, but the Bulls bullpen's failures left him winless.
Nashville's Ryan Braun followed up Saturday's two home run day with another homer on Sunday. Braun's home run helped make Zach Jackson a winner as the Sounds pounded New Orleans 10-3.
Chris Carter hit .301/.395/.483 last season in Tucson, but Conor Jackson providing much of the same profile but with better defense for the Diamondbacks' big league club, he was sent back to Tucson. Carter went 3-for-3 with two doubles to raise his average to .353 on Sunday. Carter's hoping the hot hitting will get him traded, as he explained to the Arizona Daily Star.
"If the Diamondbacks don't want me, there are 29 other teams out there," Carter said. "Hopefully, they will trade me if they don't want to use me in the big leagues."
Finding even solid game stories for Sunday games is a struggle as many papers just rely on staff reports over the weekend. But that's not the case with the Daily Star, which has a solid feature on Jamie D'Antona's hot start in addition to the game story with Carter's comments.
Billy Butler provided the big hits and Brian Bannister shut down Albuquerque on Sunday.
Brandon Wood continues to heat up. He doubled twice on Sunday to help Bartolo Colon pick up a win in a rehab appearance. Colon allowed only three hits in seven scoreless innings as he showed he's nearly ready to return to the Angels' rotation. Terry Evans extended his hitting streak to 11 games for the Bees.