By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns improved to 8-3 on the road this season with a 4-3 win over Birmingham at Regions Park on Monday night.
The Suns took a 1-0 lead in the third when Jose Duarte led off the inning by walking on four pitches, and Jake Smolinski tripled to center to drive him in. The Suns now have seven triples this season. In the home half of the inning, Jared Mitchell and Damaso Espino both walked to start the inning against Jacksonville starter Jose Alvarez. That set the table for Drew Garcia, who drove in two runs with a double down the left field line to put the Barons in front 2-1.
Birmingham increased the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Justin Greene singled and later scored of a sacrifice fly by Garcia, who drove in all three runs for the Barons in the game to increase his RBI total to 20 for the year.
The Suns tied the game in the sixth when Paul Gran doubled and Shawn Bowman singled before there was an out in the inning. Russel Mitchell then singled up the middle to drive in Gran and cut the Barons lead to 3-2. Later in the sixth, Curt Smith’s sacrifice fly tied the game 3-3. Mitchell now has five runs batted in with the Suns, and Smith has driven in four runs in the last two games. With Birmingham a Chicago White Sox affiliate, Monday’s game was the first of the season for Jacksonville with the designated hitter and Smith came through.
In the seventh inning, the Suns completed the comeback when Smolinski hit his second triple of the night and came in to score on a Shawn Bowman sacrifice fly to give Jacksonville a 4-3 lead. Bowman leads the team with 14 runs batted in. Smolinski is now five-for-eight in his last two games since returning from an injury.
Jose Alvarez pitched six innings allowing seven hits and three runs to earn his first win of the season. Once again the Suns bullpen was flawless, tossing three innings without allowing a hit. Garrett Parcell pitched the seventh, Josh Schmidt the eighth, and Evan Reed locked down his seventh save by retiring the Barons in order in the ninth. Reed leads the Southern League in saves. Barons starter Jose Quintana pitched six innings and allowed five hits and three runs and didn’t figure in the decision. The losing pitcher was Santos Rodriguez. He dropped to 0-1 as the Barons five game winning streak came to an end.
The Suns improved to 14-1 when they score the first run. It was also the fifth come-from-behind win for Jacksonville this season.
Game two of the series is Tuesday morning at 11:00AM with Bryan Evans (0-2, 5.75) scheduled to make the start for the Suns. Nestor Molina (3-1, 3.56) will take the mound for Birmingham.