Christian Jones takes step forward in no-hit effort for Augusta GreenJackets

Sand Gnats 3-1, GreenJackets 1-2

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Rain prevented Augusta left-hander Christian Jones from extending a career-best outing further, but the start was big a step forward for the Oregon product.

Jones threw five no-hit innings in just his second Augusta start before rain caused Monday’s game to be suspended. It resumed Tuesday night, as the Savannah Sand Gnats won 3-1.

Jones, who underwent Tommy John surgery at Oregon, was limited to bullpen duty in his first pro season last year between the Arizona and Northwest leagues. The lefty built stamina through spring training and went one inning in his first start for Augusta on April 8.

Jones went much further in his second start. He threw five scoreless innings with one walk and seven strikeouts, showing command of his fastball and keeping Savannah’s hitters off balance with a strong changeup.

“My changeup was the pitch,” he said. “I controlled it any time I wanted to, and it set up my other pitches pretty well for me.”

Jones was a weekend starter for Oregon in 2011 before elbow surgery cut into his development. He returned in 2013 as a reliever for the Ducks and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants as a sleeper in the 18th round.

The Giants are working Jones back slowly with shorter outings in the GreenJackets rotation. Steven Messner currently serves as Jones’ “piggyback” reliever, tossing multiple innings after Jones exits early.

But Jones worked so efficiently in Monday’s start that he lasted five innings before the rain halted the best start of his pro career.

“My arm finally feels good after surgery a couple years ago,” he said. “Now, my head is clear that my arm isn’t hurting anymore, so I can focus on throwing the ball. (Monday) was big for me.”

Messner relieved Jones to resume the game Tuesday, and he allowed one earned run and three total for the loss.

The GreenJackets rebounded with a walk-off, 2-1 win in the second game Tuesday.

Ryder Jones singled home the winning run in the eighth inning. The two teams were knotted at 1 after Cristian Paulino grounded out to score a run in the fifth.

Augusta starter Chase Johnson allowed one run and struck out six over six innings. Luis Castillo threw two scoreless innings in relief to record the win.

GREENJACKETS GAME REPORT

STAR OF THE GAMES: Augusta’s Christian Jones threw five no-hit innings with seven strikeouts in the first game.

PLAY OF THE GAMES: GreenJackets shortstop Ryder Jones singled home the winning run in extra innings in the second game.

NEXT: Savannah at Augusta, 7 p.m. today


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