Jarrett Gardner might not throw exceptionally hard, but he sure knows how to confuse batters.
The Augusta starter mixes a fastball usually clocked in the mid-80s with a changeup, a curveball and a slider to keep batters guessing. And lately, they've been guessing wrong more often than not.
Gardner got the GreenJackets on a roll and he kept it going Saturday with another dominating performance. The all-star retired 16 in a row at one point and Augusta finished off a four-game sweep of the Hagerstown Suns with a 3-0 win at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"It seemed like I'd just sat down and I had to go back and coach third," Augusta manager Chad Epperson said.
Gardner (12-5) threw seven innings and gave up just two hits. In his usual form, Gardner did not walk anybody and struck out five. He's walked just 10 batters in 123Q innings this season.
Gardner took the South Atlantic League lead in wins Monday, earning his 11th victory with seven shutout innings against Delmarva. That outing helped stop a four-game losing streak.
The right-hander is 3-0 in his last three starts, allowing two earned runs, walked one and struck out 12 over 20w innings.
"(Gardner) was money. He was right on," said catcher Mitch Stachowsky, who hit a two-run home run to cap Augusta's scoring in the sixth. "He knows what he has to do and goes out and does it."
And all the while, he's been playing with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The knee got a little bit of a test Saturday, when Gardner laid out to cover first base on a grounder in the seventh. First baseman Tim Burgess fielded the ball but his throw went behind Gardner. The pitcher fell backward to catch the ball and, at the same time, stretched his leg forward to tag the base. He got the runner out and ended up flat on his back.
Gardner said he felt a little twitch, but "it was more scary than anything."
Gardner wasn't the only one showing off defensive skills for the GreenJackets (23-25). Center fielder Robert Evans made two diving catches to rob Jesse Schmidt of base hits.
"I tip my hat to (Evans)," Gardner said. "He saved my butt tonight."
Right fielder Claudio Arias then helped out Randy Beam in the ninth by laying out for Patrick Dobson's line drive. Beam picked up his sixth save as he and Edgar Martinez closed out the GreenJackets' second shutout in a row. Neither Beam nor Martinez have given up a run since joining Augusta.
STAR OF THE GAME: Augusta starter Jarrett Gardner dominated the Suns for seven innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five.
KEY PLAY: Robert Evans made two unbelievable catches in center field, and Gardner helped his own cause with a great play at first in the seventh inning.
TODAY'S GAME: 2:15 p.m., Lake County at GreenJackets.
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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