By Steve Kolbe
For the second straight game the Jacksonville Suns earned a comeback win at Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola, rebounding Sunday afternoon from a 2-0 deficit against the Blue Wahoos by scoring five runs in the final three innings for a 5-4 victory. The Suns improved to 6-25 when they give up the first run of the game, with half of the wins against their in-state rival.
The Blue Wahoos dented the scoreboard in the fifth inning against Suns starter Jose Alvarez. After leadoff hitter P.J. Phillips grounded out to start the inning, right fielder Andrew Means singled to left and catcher Chris Berset singled to right to begin the rally. Wahoos pitcher Tony Cingrani swung at the first pitch he saw in the inning, and scratched out an infield single for his first Double-A hit to load the bases. Pensacola center fielder Ryan LaMarre cashed in when he lined a single into right field, with Means and Berset scoring to give the Blue Wahoos a 2-0 lead.
The Suns had just three singles in six innings against Blue Wahoos starter Tony Cingrani, but just as they had done the previous night, the Suns began their comeback in the seventh inning. Jeff Dominguez grounded out and Curt Smith struck out. Donnie Webb then ignited the two-out rally when he singled to right, and advanced to second on a throwing error by right fielder Andrew Means. Playing in his first game back with the Suns, Jose Duarte beat out an infield single to put runners on the corners with two outs.
The Blue Wahoos made a call to the bullpen and summoned reliever Drew Hayes. He allowed the hit parade to continue when pinch hitter German Duran, Chris Gutierrez, and Paul Gran each drove in a run with a single to put the Suns in front 3-2. Jacksonville hit five straight singles in the inning.
Pensacola also put together a two out rally in the seventh. Ryan LaMarre was hit by Suns reliever Josh Schmidt, and Didi Gregorius followed with a single up the middle to tie the game 3-3.
The Suns got to work in the ninth against Blue Wahoos closer Donnie Joseph, who began the day with only two earned runs allowed in his previous 24 appearances. Jose Duarte drew a walk to lead off the inning, and pinch hitter Kyle Jensen singled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Chris Gutierrez came to the plate with the intention of bunting the runners over, and his ground out did move Duarte over to third and Jensen to second. Paul Gran followed by hitting a ball to straight-away center field, with Duarte tagging from third and coasting home to put the Suns ahead 4-3. After an intentional walk to Shawn Bowman, Jacksonville added an insurance run when Kyle Skipworth struck out but catcher Chris Berset dropped the ball. When Berset threw the ball to first to record the out it hit Skipworth in the back, with Jensen scoring to increase the lead 5-3.
In the home half of the ninth, Suns closer A.J. Ramos retired Chris Berset on a fly ball to left and struck out pinch hitter Stephen Hunt. With two outs, Ryan LaMarre and Didi Gregorius both singled to bring Brodie Greene to the plate. Greene drove in LaMarre with the third straight single of the inning, and cut the Suns lead to 5-4. With two runners on base and first baseman Joel Guzman at the plate in front of a buzzing crowd, Ramos threw an off-speed pitch that fooled the big hitter, with Guzman hitting a dribbler in front of the plate for the final out of the game.
A day after the Suns hammered out seven doubles in a 9-6 win, the two teams combined for 24 hits, with 23 singles. The only extra base hit of the game on Sunday was a double by David Vidal in the second inning. For the Suns, Paul Gran went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. Kyle Skipworth and Donnie Webb each had two hits. The Blue Wahoos had 14 hits, with every player in the starting lineup collecting at least one hit in the game. Ryan LaMarre went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Didi Gregorius, Brodie Greene, and David Vidal each finished with two hits.
Jose Alvarez began the day in search of his first win in over a month, with his lone victory of the season coming on the first day of May against the Barons. Alvarez pitched five and a-third innings allowing two runs on nine hits and struck out four Pensacola batters. Alvarez has started three games this season against the Blue Wahoos without a decision. A.J. Ramos pitched the final two innings, allowing one run on season-high four hits to improve his record to 3-0.
Blue Wahoos starter Tony Cingrani allowed two runs on five hits over six and two-thirds innings in his first-ever Double-A outing and didn’t factor in the decision. He was promoted from High-A Bakersfield two days ago after going 5-1 in ten starts for the Blaze. Donnie Joseph gave up two runs in the ninth and fell to 4-2 on the season.
Game three of the series is Monday with the first pitch slated for 8:00 p.m. EST. RHP Bryan Evans (1-4, 3.66) will start his eleventh game of the season for the Suns in search of his second straight win. RHP Kyle Lotzkar (2-1, 3.16) will start his fifth game of the season for the Blue Wahoos.