By Steve Kolbe
With a share of first place on the line, the Jacksonville Suns continued their winning ways on the road, powering past Mobile 5-1 at Hank Aaron Stadium. Jacksonville has used a five game winning streak to improve to 9-7 and tie the BayBears atop the South Division. Last April, the longest winning streak the Suns put together was two games, when they finished the first month of the season 11-12. The Suns had two five game winning streaks all year during 2011, May 23-28 and June 16-23. They’ve matched that mark already.
The first meeting of the season between the Suns and BayBears began as a pitcher’s duel, with Jacksonville’s Jose Alvarez and Mobile’s Tyler Skaggs stealing the spotlight. Alvarez breezed along until the fourth inning, when Brent Clevlen hit his first home run of the season to give the Bay Bears a 1-0 lead. The BayBears had three hits in the game, and all were off the bat of Clevlen. He finished 3-for-4 with a single, double, and a homer.
Jacksonville managed just three hits in the first six innings against Skaggs, who was cruising along allowing just a pair of singles by Shawn Bowman and a double by Kyle Skipworth. Skaggs tied his career high for strikeouts in a game by fanning 12 of the first 22 Suns batters he faced in the game.
Everything changed for the Suns in the top of the seventh inning. With one out, Curt Smith reached base with an infield single. It appeared that Chris Gutierrez was going to pop out to first baseman Yazy Arbelo, but he dropped the ball for an error and gave Gutierrez another swing. He made it count, ripping a double into right-center and Smith scored all the way from first to tie the game 1-1. Jose Duarte put Jacksonville in front 2-1 when his double to left drove in Gutierrez. Gutierrez has driven in four runs and scored five times in his last four games.
The rough inning for Skaggs continued when pinch-hitter German Duran came to the plate for just the second time this season, and launched a two-run home run over the left field wall. It was a towering blast that padded the Suns lead to 4-1. Mobile entered the game with a team ERA of 3.10, second-best in the league behind the Jackson Generals. The Suns have scored 30 runs during their five game streak.
In the eight inning, Shawn Bowman hit his third home run of the season to straight-away center to increase the lead to 5-1. The Suns have hit 16 home runs this season, most in the league and five more than both Jackson and Mobile. Bowman and Kyle Skipworth are tied for third in the league with three round trippers each.
The Suns bullpen was strong once again. Jose Alvarez went four innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out four and didn’t factor in the decision. The losing pitcher was Tyler Skaggs, he pitched six-and-a-third innings and allowed seven hits and four runs. Kyle Kaminska pitched two innings without allowing a hit and earned his second win of the season. Wade Korpi pitched the seventh, Garrett Parcell the eighth, and A.J. Ramos the ninth. Overall, Jacksonville relievers tossed five innings and allowed just one hit. Jacksonville hurlers struck out eight without walking a batter.
Shawn Bowman finished the night 3-for-4. Kyle Skipworth was 2-for-4 with two doubles. Skipworth is batting .340 in his last seven games in the starting lineup. He’s hit safely in each game, going 10-for-29. The win was Jacksonville’s first when they allow their opponent to score first, they were 0-6 entering the game.
Game two of the series is Saturday night at Hank Aaron Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM with Bryan Evans making the start for Jacksonville looking for his first win of the year. Former first-round draft pick Trevor Bauer takes the mound for the BayBears. He leads the Southern League with a record of 3-0 and a 0.57 ERA. Bauer was the third overall pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft.