It would have taken a no-hitter by Brian O'Connor to outduel Columbus' Lance Calmus, but that notion was promptly thrown out after a forgettable first inning for the GreenJackets lefthander.
Four runs on five hits in the top of the first off O'Connor - including Michael Glavine's South Atlantic League leading 14th home run, a tworun blast to center field - and seven innings of one-hit pitching by Calmus halted the Jackets' longest winning streak of the year at six games, in Columbus' 5-1 victory Thursday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
But somewhere lost in his subpar pitching line, there were some promising signs from O'Connor that left the Jackets somehow feeling just as good about his performance as the RedStixx felt about Calmus' breakthrough outing.
"I thought he made a lot of progress," Jackets pitching coach Scott Lovekamp said of O'Connor, who took the loss to fall to 2-5. "A month ago if he had a bad start like tonight, he would have never recovered. Basically, if he struggled early in a game, you knew he'd probably struggle all game. He's a different pitcher now. I was real happy with the way he battled back and competed."
After the rocky first, O'Connor settled down and gave up just one more run and three hits through his final five innings. Overall, he gave up eight hits, five runs and two walks in six innings, with five strikeouts.
"I didn't have my usual fastball tonight and didn't feel like I had a lot of stuff at all," said the 20-year-old O'Connor, who retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. "But after the first, I made some adjustments and went more with my offspeed stuff and I threw a little but better."
"Bad first innings are going to happen, and a guy like Glavine is going to do that, he's got a lot of power," Lovekamp said. "But he's a different, more confident pitcher now, and he was able to recover."
Calmus, a 23-year-old right-hander who was 0-2 with an 8.16 ERA coming into his ninth start on Thursday, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. With two outs in the inning, Luis Figueroa accounted for all of Augusta's offensive output, with an RBI-single to left field to break up the no-hit bid as well as the shutout.
The Jackets' lone run was unearned and, in seven innings, Calmus (1-2) walked one, hit a batter, and struck out four. The league was hitting .328 against him before Thursday.
"That was probably the best I've thrown this year," said Calmus, who opened the season on the disabled list with Kinston, the Cleveland Indians' advanced Class A Carolina League affiliate. "I had good stuff and kept the ball down, that was the key."
"He touched 91 (mph), threw a lot of strikes and really did a good job," said Augusta manager Whitey Richardson of Calmus, after the Jackets (26-28) missed their chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time since May 2, when they were 14-14. "But I thought Brian did a great job as well after the first inning. He really saved our bullpen. For him to come back and give us six innings was huge. He really battled."
NOTES: Augusta has been no-hit three times in its 35 year franchise history. The last one came last season, by Piedmont's Rob Burger, in a 1-0 Boll Weevils victory April 30 at The Lake. ... Left-hander Jason Haynie was placed on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday to rest his tired arm. Haynie (5-4, 3,00 ERA), second in the South Atlantic League in strike outs with 67 and third in innings pitched (69), experienced dead arm Tuesday night in his start vs. Columbus, and will take the time off as a precaution. Righthander George Hlodan, who was outrighted to Erie earlier this week but remained with the Jackets, was activated and takes Haynie's roster spot. ... Third baseman Bo Hundt left the team Thursday to return home to Indiana to mourn the death of his grandmother, and will miss the next three games.