By Steve Kolbe
The Suns rallied in the ninth inning for a 5-4 win over the Biscuits on Tuesday afternoon at Riverwalk Stadium. Jacksonville scored four times in the final two innings to overcome a 3-1 deficit.
The Suns took the lead in the top of the first inning when Ryan Patterson homered to left to put Jacksonville in front 1-0. All three of Patterson’s home runs this season have been solo blasts. The Suns have scored in the first inning in 11 of their 40 games this season with a 9-2 record in those games.
The Suns have scored first in three of the last four games, and improved to 16-2 when scoring the game’s first run. Montgomery is now 6-17 when allowing the first run of the game.
Montgomery tied the game 1-1 in the fourth inning against Suns starter Omar Poveda when Tyler Bortnick hit his first home run of the season, a no-doubt shot to left field. The Biscuits have hit 23 home runs this season.
In the sixth inning, the Biscuits took the lead when Hak-Ju Lee led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, and stole third. The Biscuits lead the league with 54 stolen bases. Lee scored when Omar Luna grounded out to short to put Montgomery in front 2-1. After Kyeong Kang tripled to deep center field, Bortnick continued his big day at the plate when he singled to drive in Kang to make the score 3-1. The Biscuits lead the league with 22 triples this season.
Both starters departed after pitching six innings. Biscuits lefty Kyle Lobstein allowed three hits and one run. For the Suns, Omar Poveda allowed five hits and three runs. In the series, the Suns collected just 11 hits and scored just five runs against the Biscuits starting pitchers, but scored nine runs against the Biscuits bullpen.
The Suns started their late inning comeback in the eighth off of reliever Frank De Los Santos. Curt Smith hit his eighth double of the season to lead off the inning, and scored on Jake Smolinski’s single to right field to cut the lead to 3-2. Smolinski is 9-for-21 this season with runners in scoring position.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Suns completed the comeback with catcher Jake Jefferies coming through against his former team. With relief pitcher Kirby Yates trying to protect the lead, Russell Mitchell drew a one out walk and Jeff Dominguez singled behind him. That set the stage for Jefferies, who hit a towering three-run home run to right field to put the Suns in front 5-3. Jefferies is 2-for-6 with three RBI and three runs scored since returning to Jacksonville from New Orleans.
Kyeong Kang led off the bottom of the ninth with a double off of Suns reliever A.J. Ramos, and scored for the the second time in the game when Michael Sheridan singled to center field to cut the Suns lead to 5-4. With a runner on first, David Wendt’s blast to left was hauled in by Jake Smolinski on the warning track for the second out of the inning. Ramos then struck out Brad Coon on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
Jeff Dominguez finsihed the day 2-for-4 and scored a run. Seven different Suns players had at least one hit in the game. Ryan Patterson and Jake Jefferies hit the long ball. After going 13 games without a home run, the Suns have hit four in the last four games.
Tyler Bortnick entered the game with just three hits in his last 28 plate appearances. He led the Biscuits on Tuesday going 3-for-4 with two singles and his first home run of the season. Kyeong Kang was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple. Kang has 26 hits on the season, with 18 of them for extra bases (eight home runs, eight doubles, two triples).
A.J. Ramos pitched the eighth and ninth, allowing three hits and a run to improve to 2-0 on the season. Ramos has allowed only two runs this season in his 16 appearances.
The Suns are now 9-7 in one-run games this season and won for the first time when trailing after the seventh inning (1-16). Jacksonville opens a five game series against Pensacola on Thursday night at the Baseball Grounds with Jose Alvarez (1-1, 3.90) taking the hill for his seventh start of the season. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:35PM ET.