By Steve Kolbe
A day after the Suns had their five-game winning streak come to an end, a fast start on Sunday afternoon propelled Jacksonville to a 4-3 win in Mobile. The Suns and BayBears are once again tied for first place in the South Division of the Southern League with identical 10-8 records.
Paul Gran tripled off of starting pitcher Derek Eitel to start the game. It was the second triple of the season for the Suns. After Ryan Patterson walked, Curt Smith drove in the first run of the game when BayBears third baseman Matt Davidson committed an error allowing Gran to score for a 1-0 Suns lead, with Patterson advancing to third on the miscue. Kyle Jensen followed with a sacrifice fly to right for his eighth RBI of the season, and Jacksonville led 2-0. Mobile has been outscored in the first inning this season 14-3.
The BayBears have committed five errors in the series and 23 total in the season’s first 18 games. During the 2012 season, Mobile had the fewest errors in the league with only 98.
Mobile cut the lead in half in the second inning against Suns starter Zach Neal when they loaded the bases with no outs. BayBears catcher Rossmel Perez grounded into a double play with Brent Clevlen scoring from third to make it 2-1. It could have been worse, but Neal was able to limit the damage and avoid the big inning.
Jacksonville scored in the third inning, when Curt Smith made it to first safely to avoid hitting into a double play. Jensen then drove in his second run of the game with a double to left field to increase the Suns lead to 3-1.
Mobile cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth when Marc Krauss walked to start the inning, and scored when Archie Gilbert doubled into left-center to drive in his first run of the season. Krauss reached base in all four of his trips to the plate during the afternoon, finishing with a single and three walks.
The Suns scored the eventual game-winning run in the sixth when Jake Jefferies and Chris Gutierrez singled, and Donnie Webb reached base on an error. With the bases loaded and no outs, pitcher Zach Neal grounded into a double play, with Jefferies scoring to make the score 4-2 Jacksonville.
Reliever Josh Schmidt took over for Neal and pitched the seventh. The BayBears scored their final run of the game in the inning when Gilbert singled, and then stole both second and third. He now has six stolen bases this season after swiping 26 last year. Gilbert scored from third on a ground out by Raoul Torrez and Mobile trailed 4-3, but that’s as close as they would get.
Evan Reed pitched the last two innings to earn his fifth save of the season. He allowed one hit and struck out two. Mobile did get the tying run aboard in the bottom of the ninth, when Archie Gilbert singled for his third hit of the game. Knowing that Gilbert already had two stolen bases and that he wanted to get in scoring position, Reed tossed numerous times over to first in an attempt to keep the speedster close. Reed finally caught Gilbert leaning the wrong way, and picked him off to end the game and give the Suns the 4-3 win. It was the third base runner that Suns hurlers have picked off on the road trip. Omar Poveda and Wade Korpi each had a pick off against Pensacola, with Korpi’s coming in the bottom of the twelfth in a game the Suns won in the very next inning.
Zach Neal improved his record to 2-1, pitching six innings and allowing six hits and two runs. He’s allowed only three runs in his first three starts of the season. Schmidt pitched the seventh, allowing a hit and a run. Since letting a ninth inning lead slip away in a loss to Huntsville, Reed has now converted his last four save opportunities.
Paul Gran finished 1-for-3, scored a run, and stole a base. Chris Gutierrez went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Curt Smith drove in his sixth run of the season. The Suns are now 8-1 when they score the first run of the game, the BayBears are 0-5 when they give up the game’s first run.
The Suns have won six of the first eight games on the season’s first road trip, and five of those wins have been by a single run. Game four of the series in Mobile is Monday night at 7:05PM with Graham Taylor scheduled to make his fourth start of the season. The BayBears counter with Chase Anderson, who will be making just his second start at the double-A level.