By Steve Kolbe
In their most lopsided win of the season, the Jacksonville Suns blanked the Mobile BayBears 9-0 on Wednesday afternoon. The Suns had lost their first seven games against the BayBears at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville this season by a combined score of 31-6.
BayBears mistakes helped the Suns take the lead in the second inning against starter Derek Eitel. Third baseman Matt Davidson committed two costly throwing errors in the inning, allowing both Kyle Skipworth and Ryan Patterson to reach base. Davidson has committed a team-high 14 errors. With one out in the second, Chris Gutierrez put the Suns in front 3-0 with his first home run of the season, a no-doubt blast over the left field wall. The Suns improved to 20-5 when they score the game’s first run. The BayBears have committed a league-high 61 errors. Last season Mobile had the fewest errors in the Southern League with only 98.
In the third, Paul Gran led off the inning when he was hit by a pitch. With two outs, Kyle Skipworth popped up in foul ground but BayBears catcher Rossmell Perez dropped the ball. Skipworth made the most of his second chance, hitting a double to right field to put runners on second and third. Kyle Jensen and Ryan Patterson followed with back-to-back RBI singles to increase the Suns lead to 5-0.
The Suns loaded the bases in the fourth inning when pitcher Bryan Evans singled for his first hit of the season, and BayBears pitcher Derek Eitel walked both German Duran and Paul Gran on four straight pitches. Jake Smolinski then drove in his fourteenth run of the season with a sacrifice fly to left, with Evans scoring for a 6-0 Suns advantage.
Jacksonville added to the lead with a two-out rally in the eighth inning against reliever Yonata Ortega. After striking out Donnie Webb and retiring German Duran on a liner, Ortega hit Paul Gran in the numbers. Gran was hit twice in the game, and this season has been hit by the pitch a team-high 10 times. Struggling with his command, Ortega issued four-pitch walks to both Jake Smolinski and Shawn Bowman to load the bases. Kyle Skipworth came to the plate and smashed his second double of the game, driving in both Gran and Smolinski to increase the lead to 8-0. Shawn Bowman completed the scoring when he came home on an Ortega balk.
Both managers were ejected from the game by home plate umpire Jay Pierce. In the fourth inning, Suns skipper Andy Barkett was throw out of a game for the first time this season. When Brent Clevlen hit a ball down the left field line that was ruled fair for a double, Barkett came out for an animated discussion. BayBears manager Turner Ward also had a run-in, and was tossed in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes.
Kyle Skipworth finished 2-for-5 for his seventh multi-hit game of the season. He drove in two runs and scored two runs, and has now hit safely in six of his last seven games. Chris Gutierrez was 2-for-4 with a three-run home run. Jake Smolinski went 2-for-3 with a RBI and scored a run. Eight Suns players had at least one hit on the day. Mobile pitchers had held Jacksonville hitters to a .180 batting average during the seven game winning streak.
The Suns have blanked their opponents five times this season, with two of the shutouts coming against the BayBears. Mobile has been held off the scoreboard only twice this season, both times against the Suns. Graham Taylor and two relievers combined on a 7-0 three-hitter April 23 at Hank Aaron Stadium.
Jacksonville starter Bryan Evans (1-4) won for the first time this season. He allowed just three hits and struck out four over his six innings of work. In his last three starts, Evans has allowed just five runs over 15 innings. Corey Madden pitched two innings and allowed two hits, and A.J. Ramos tossed the ninth for the Suns.
With the win the Suns improved the record to 24-29 overall, and 10-18 at the Baseball Grounds.