By Steve Kolbe
In a game that featured five home runs, the Suns jumped out to a big lead and hung on to win their season-high third straight game, an 8-7 victory over Pensacola on Wednesday night.
In the second inning, Kyle Jensen put Jacksonville on top 1-0 with his second home run of the season, a solo shot to right field off of Blue Wahoos starter Tim Crabbe. After Chris Gutierrez and Donnie Webb drew walks in the inning, Paul Gran jumped on the first pitch he saw from Crabbe and drove in two runs with a double to left and the Suns led 3-0. Gran finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and drove in two runs.
Kyle Skipworth increased the lead to 4-0 in the third with the Suns second solo home run in as many innings. Skipworth has now hit safely in his last four games in the starting lineup. It was his second home run of the season.
Suns starting pitcher Graham Taylor was cruising along in his third start of the season. Through the first four innings, he allowed just three hits and the Blue Wahoos had stranded six runners on base. In the fifth inning, the Pensacola bats came to life. After a single by Didi Gregorius and a double by Henry Rodriguez, Brodie Greene hit a three-run home run to left-center to cut the Suns lead to 4-3. Greene double his RBI total with one swing of the bat. Since scoring four runs in the first inning in the second game of the series, the Blue Wahoos had gone 24 innings without scoring run before Greene’s homer.
Jacksonville padded the lead in the top of the sixth, when Kyle Jensen walked to lead off the inning and Curt Smith followed with a double. Gutierrez drove in the first of his two runs in the game with a single to center to make the score 5-3 Suns. A batter later, Donnie Webb’s sacrifice fly drove in Smith to make it 6-3.
Pensacola scored three more runs in the seventh off of Suns reliever Garrett Parcell. Ryan LaMarre led off the inning with a solo home run, and Joel Guzman hit a two-run blast and the game was tied 6-6. It’s the second time this season that the Suns have surrendered three home runs in a game.
The Suns took the lead for good in the eighth inning off losing pitcher Drew Hayes, when Jensen led off again with a walk and Gutierrez drove him in with a double down the right field line. One batter later, pinch-hitter Jose Duarte drove in Gutierrez with a line drive single up the middle and Jacksonville led 8-6. Gutierrez finished 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and two runs scored. Jensen walked twice and scored both times to go along with his home run. In the game, half of the Suns eight runs were scored by players that reached base with a walk. Six different Suns player drove in a run.
In the ninth, Pensacola collected three hits and scored a run but left the tying run on base when Evan Reed struck out pinch-hitter Mark Fleury.
For Pensacola, Didi Gregorius was 4-for-5 to increase his hitting streak to seven games. He also scored three of the Wahoos six runs. The trio of Joel Guzman, Ryan LaMarre, and Brodie Greene each finished with two hits and combined to drive in all seven Pensacola runs.
Suns starter Graham Taylor pitched five innings, allowing six hits and three runs and didn’t figure in the decision. Garrett Parcell went one-and-a-third innings, allowing four hits and three runs. Josh Schmidt retired the only two hitters he faced in the seventh inning to earn his first win on the season. Evan Reed pitched the eighth and ninth for his fourth save of the season.
The Suns are 7-1 when they score the game’s first run, 0-7 when they don’t. In the first four games of the series the Suns have a total of 30 hits and have scored 21 runs. Jacksonville has hit five home runs in the last four games with four of them solo shots.
The series finale is Thursday with the first pitch scheduled for 8:00PM eastern time. It’s a matchup of right handers with Omar Poveda back on the mound for Jacksonville looking for his second win of the season. He left his last start after being hit in the ankle with a line drive. J.C. Sulbaran gets the call for the Blue Wahoos.