Way to go Justin Jones!
Jones flirts with perfect game, settles for shutout
Lefty takes perfect game into ninth, Potomac wins 2-0
By Michael Walsh / Potomac Nationals
WOODBRIDGE, VA - On Friday, the media crush was on-hand to see a left-handed Potomac pitcher try to dominate the Winston-Salem Warthogs. Turned out they picked the wrong lefty and the wrong night.
Even though newly received starter Ross Detwiler was solid in his first outing at the Advanced-A Level, it was Justin Jones who turned in the gem of the series with Winston-Salem thus far, taking a perfect game bid into the ninth inning in Saturday night's 2-0 Potomac win.
"It was just an outstanding performance," said Potomac manager Randy Knorr. "He got ahead and threw strikes."
Jones retired the first 25 hitters of the game in order, only to have to settle for a shutout when C.J. Lang singled back up the middle in the ninth with one out.
A native of Norfolk, Va., Jones did most of his work without the use of strikeouts, fanning only four of the 28 Winston-Salem hitters he faced. The defense was busy behind Jones all night, with a couple of play in particular helping to keep the perfect game intact.
"He felt like he could keep the ball down and made them pound it into the ground all night," said Knorr, explaining why Jones seemed to put an emphasis on the fastball over his breaking pitches.
Chris Marrero did his part to help Jones to the first no-hitter the Pftiz in more than a decade, as he went crashing into the wall in left field to take a hit away from Winston-Salem in the fifth. Ian Desmond thwarted the 'Hogs all night, contributing five assists to keep Winston-Salem off the bases.
"Working quickly like that keeps the defense ready," Knorr said. "That's why they make those plays. He got in trouble a little earlier in the year with that, but he was outstanding tonight."
Aided by his defense and by being economical and ensuring he had enough to get to the late stages of the game, Jones and the 5,969 in attendance thought they were on their way to the first no-hitter since 1995 for the Potomac franchise.
It certainly looked that way in the ninth, with the crowd clamoring for three more outs and Jones quickly retiring Paulo Orlando on a ground out to Ian Desmond before surrendering the single to Lang. The 22-year-old responded by striking out Tyler Reves, but was lifted after giving up a line-drive single to right on his 90th pitch of the night to Robert Valido.
Reliever Josh Perrault came in for the final out and got it on just one pitch, inducing a ground ball back to the mound from Robbie Hudson to end the game. The save was Perrault's first of the season and ensured that Jones' two-hitter would end up in the win column for the pitcher and team alike.
Despite his 5-7 record coming into Saturday's game, Jones had pitched solidly with Potomac, owner of a 4.23 ERA in 13 starts prior to his first shutout of the season.
The Nationals picked up two runs in the first to give more than enough support behind Jones. Desmond got the first started, reaching on a fielding error from Valido and then moved to third on a double from Justin Maxwell.
Desmond scored on a Mike Daniel RBI-groundout and Maxwell soon followed him home on a Devin Ivany single to left.
Ivany and Maxwell each picked up a pair of hits for Potomac to back Jones and even the series with Winston-Salem. Maxwell's double was the lone extra base hit for either team and gives him eight two-baggers since joining the P-Nats.
Potomac hitters tended to wait out Warthog starter Clayton Richard, who issued six walks on the night, while striking out two Nationals.
Potomac and Winston-Salem wrap up their three-game series with a 6:05 contest at The Pfitz Sunday. RHP Marco Estrada [1-3, 7.71] takes the mound for the Nationals, with RHP Derek Rodriguez [10-4, 4.09] getting the ball for the Warthogs.