By Steve Kolbe
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos jumped out to a big lead over the Jacksonville Suns and held on for a 6-5 win at the Baseball Grounds on Saturday night. The Suns have now lost seven of the last eight home games.
In a rough first inning for Suns starter Graham Taylor, the first three batters of the game for Pensacola had a hit. Ryan LaMarre led off the game with a double, and Didi Gregorius singled to put runners on first and third. Brodie Greene delivered the game’s first run with a single to give Pensacola a 1-0 lead. With one out, David Vidal singled to left field with Gregorius scoring to increase the lead to 2-0. In the inning, the Blue Wahoos had scored two runs on five hits.
The Blue Wahoos doubled their lead in the fifth, when Joel Guzman swung at the first pitch he saw from Taylor and hit his sixth home run of the season, a two-run blast into the right field stands. Guzman has plenty of power, he led all of double-A baseball in 2010 when he hit 33 home runs for the Bowie Baysox. It’s the fourth home run that Graham Taylor has allowed this season.
While his teammates padded the lead, Pensacola starter Kyle Lotzkar cruised through four innings allowing just two singles. He was replaced by reliever Mark Serrano in the fifth inning. The only two Suns players with hits against Lotzkar were Jake Smolinski and Chris Gutierrez. After the game, Gutierrez was promoted to triple-A New Orleans.
Pensacola scored two more runs in the seventh off of reliever Kyle Kaminska to take command of the game. LaMarre once again led off the inning with his second double of the game, and Brodie Greene drove him in to make it 5-0. Joel Guzman then singled to drive in Greene for a 6-0 Pensacola advantage.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Suns came to life against a Pensacola bullpen struggling with control. Paul Gran led off the inning when he was hit in the shoulder by Mark Serrano. Jeff Dominguez singled moving Gran to third, and Dominguez took second on a throw to the infield. Jake Smolinski knocked in the Suns first run with an infield single for his 10th run batted in this season to make it 6-1. With two outs, Kyle Jensen double to left and to drive in two runs with Dominguez and Smolinski scoring to cut the lead in half with the Blue Wahoos in front 6-3.
Reliever Wilkin De La Rose entered the game and struggled to find the plate. He walked three straight batters as Jake Jefferies, Russell Mitchell, and pinch-hitter Curt Smith all were given a free pass. Smith’s walk came with the bases loaded to force in a run, and the Suns trailed 6-4. Paul Gran started the inning when he was hit by a pitch, and at the plate for the second time in the inning he was hit by the first pitch from De La Rosa to force in another run and Jacksonville had cut the Blue Wahoos lead to 6-5. The Suns sent 11 men to the plate and scored five runs on just three hits in the inning.
The Suns stranded a season-high 13 runners on base, and twice during the night left the bases loaded. Jacksonville center fielder Ryan Patterson struck out and flied out with the bases loaded and is now 0-for-4 this season with the bases full.
Suns starter Graham Taylor pitched six innings, allowing eight hits and four runs to fall to 2-4. He had allowed a total of four runs in his last two starts. Taylor is 1-3 at the Baseball Grounds this season. Mark Serrano pitched two and a-third innings, allowing one hit and two runs and earned the win to improve his record to 3-0. Donnie Joseph pitched the ninth for his league-leading ninth save of the season. He has closed the door on the Suns in each of the last two games.
With the loss, Jacksonville is now 8-15 at the Baseball Grounds this season. The Suns fell to 3-21 when allowing the first run of the game, and are now 9-9 in games decided by a single run. Jacksonville is 3-10 against team’s from the South Division in the month of May.
The Blue Wahoos collected 13 hits on the night, with eight players recording at least one. Ryan LaMarre finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and scored two runs. LaMarre is batting .306 on the road this season with 15 runs scored, 10 extra-base hits, and six stolen bases. LaMarre swiped his 12th base of the season on Saturday, and is now seventh in the league in stolen bases. Brodie Greene, Joel Guzman, and David Vidal had two hits apiece. For the Suns, Jeff Dominguez and Jake Smolinski each finished 2-for-4 with a run scored. Kyle Jensen drove in two runs for the Suns. Paul Gran, Curt Smith, and Jake Smolinski each drove in a run.
The Suns will look to get back on track on Sunday afternoon with new arrival Matt Neil on the mound. The right-hander is schedule to make his first start double-A start. RHP Daniel Corcino (2-2, 3.64) takes the hill for his ninth start of the year for Pensacola. The first pitch from the Baseball Grounds is 3:05PM ET and can be seen on CW-17 in Jacksonville.