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08/11/2007 11:54 PM ET
Jones falls just short of perfection
Retires first 25 batters in Nationals' 2-0 win over Warthogs
Justin Jones was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 2002 draft. (Michael D. Heckman)

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Justin Jones came within two outs of the Carolina League's first perfect game in almost two years Saturday as the Potomac Nationals blanked the Winston-Salem Warthogs, 2-0.

Jones (6-7) retired the first 25 batters before giving up a one-out single to C.J. Lang in the ninth.

"It was mixed emotions," he admitted. "It was a bit of relief at the same time as frustration. It definitely wasn't a disappointment at all."

The 22-year-old left-hander struck out Tyler Reves but yielded a single to Robert Valido before reliever Josh Perrault recorded the final out on one pitch to notch his first save and seal the Nationals' seventh shutout.

"I threw 95 percent fastballs. I was throwing changeups, curveballs and sliders. I didn't throw too much off-speed [stuff] at all, probably, like 12 off-speed pitches all night out of 90 pitches," Jones said.

The former second-round draft pick allowed two hits and struck out four over a career-high 8 2/3 frames, the longest outing by a Potomac pitcher this season. He lowered his ERA to 3.76, ended a personal two-game skid and improved to 1-2 against the Warthogs (15-30).

"My last couple starts have been a little rocky," Jones admitted. "It was nice to get back on the ball and have a good outing."

The perfect game would have been the 10th in Carolina League history and first since Kinston's Keith Ramsey pitched one against Myrtle Beach on Sept. 6, 2004. It also would have been the first for Jones, who recalled being taken out due to a rain delay after throwing seven innings in what turned out to be a combined no-hitter.

"That was probably the closest I've ever come," he said.

Ian Desmond reached on an error by shortstop Valido in the first, advanced to third on Justin Maxwell's double and scored for the Nationals (24-23) on a groundout by Michael Daniel. Christopher Marrero walked and Devin Ivany followed with an RBI single.

Winston-Salem starter Clayton Richard (7-10) suffered his third straight loss after surrendering two runs -- one earned -- on seven hits and six walks with two strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.

Marissa Rega is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.