By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns fell to the Montgomery Biscuits 1-0 in the first game of their five game series at Riverwalk Stadium on Friday night. The Suns have now been shutout three times during their season-high six game losing streak.
The Suns were hitless against Montgomery starting pitcher Matt Buschmann until the sixth inning, when Taylor Krick hit a line drive single to left. Jacksonville starter Jose Alvarez was also impressive, allowing just five hits on the night. Both starters didn’t figure in the decision, and handed the game over to their bullpen after pitching six and two-thirds innings each.
The Biscuits broke through in the bottom of the eighth inning against reliever Garrett Parcell. With one out, Mark Thomas doubled to left for his first hit of the game. Top prospect Hak-Ju Lee followed by jumping on the first pitch he saw from Parcell and sending a line drive down the right field line for a double, with Thomas crossing the plate to give the Biscuits a 1-0 lead. It was Lee’s 12th run batted in this season. Thomas entered the game batting just .163 in his first 24 games of the season, but his double in the eighth started the rally.
The win snapped a five game home losing streak for Montgomery. The Biscuits were outscored 39-17 by Birmingham in the Barons sweep of a five game series at Riverwalk Stadium. The Suns have lost six straight games and have been outscored 26-3 in those games. Jacksonville has been shutout four times this season, and three times during the losing streak.
Runs have been scarce for Jacksonville. Since scoring all of their runs in the first four innings of an 11-7 win at Birmingham May 5th, the Suns have scored only three times in the last 59 innings. In the last six games, the Suns have been outhit 51-28 and outscored 26-3. Only three of the Suns 28 hits in that time have been for extra bases, with two doubles by Ryan Patterson and one by Kyle Jensen.
The Suns and Biscuits are now tied for second place in the South Division with a record of 17-19 and both teams are six games behind the first place Mobile BayBears. Three pitchers combined to three-hit the Suns in the win for Montgomery. Jacksonville was also on the wrong side of a 1-0 one-hitter tossed by the Chattanooga Lookouts on April 12th at the Baseball Grounds.
Matt Buschmann started the game for Montgomery and pitched six and two-thirds innings. He allowed just one hit and struck out 12 of the 21 Suns batters that he faced in the no decision. Frank De Los Santos pitched and inning and a third to earn his second win of the season for the Biscuits.
Montgomery closer Adam Liberatore had to wiggle his way out of a jam in the ninth. After Paul Gran singled and Jake Smolinski reached on an error to give the Suns runners on second and third with no outs, Liberatore found a way to escape. He retired Kyle Skipworth and Curt Smith on ground outs, and Kyle Jensen on a fly ball to left to end the game and record his fourth save of the season.
It’s a matchup of right-handers looking for their first win of the season on Saturday at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. The Suns will send Bryan Evans (0-2, 4.70) to the mound. Evans allowed just one run over five innings in his last start. The Biscuits counter with RHP Jake Thompson (0-3, 6.83).