The Suns topped the Mississippi Braves 6-3 in the first meeting of the season between the two teams June 13, 2012 at Trustmark Park. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns
By Steve Kolbe
Shortstop Chris Gutierrez increased his hit streak to a dozen games, and the Suns claimed game one of their final series of the first half, with a 6-3 win over the Mississippi Braves on Wednesday night at Trustmark Park.
Jacksonville took the lead in the second inning against Braves starter Zeke Spruill. With one out, Kyle Jensen hit his 11th double of the season, and Kyle Skipworth singled to center behind him to give the Suns a 1-0 lead. The Suns improved to 25-4 this season when scoring the first run of the game.
In the bottom of the second, the Braves drew even on three singles. After base hits by Todd Cunningham and Joe Leonard put runners on the corners against Suns righty Omar Poveda, a two-out base knock by Barrett Kleinknecht drove in Cunningham to tie the game 1-1.
The Suns reclaimed the lead in the third inning helped by some suspect defense. After Chris Gutierrez doubled and advanced to third on a throwing error by left fielder Tim Smith, Jake Smolinski plated Gutierrez with a ground out, and the Suns had a 2-1 advantage.
Once again, Mississippi came right back in the home half of the inning with two extra base hits against Poveda. Keenan Wiley led off the inning when he tripled off the wall in right field. A batter later, Joe Terdoslavich doubled to right, with Wiley cruising home to even the score 2-2.
In the fourth, Joe Leonard gave the Braves their only lead of the night when he led off the inning smashing his third home run of the season over the right field wall to give Mississippi at 3-2 edge. The Braves have hit just 22 round trippers this season.
Jacksonville took advantage of two errors in the sixth inning to take the lead for good. Kyle Jensen walked and Kyle Skipworth singled to put runners on first and third with one out. Then the Braves came unglued. Jeff Dominguez hit a grounder that first baseman Joe Terdoslavich couldn’t handle, with Jensen scoring from third base on the miscue to tie the game 3-3. Skipworth was on the move from first and never stopped, rumbling all the way around to score on a throwing error by right fielder Keenan Wiley, and the Suns were back in front 4-3.
The Suns score two insurance runs in the ninth inning against relief pitcher Andrew Russell. With one out, Paul Gran and Jose Duarte both singled to put runners on the corners. Donnie Webb hit a deep fly ball to right field, with Gran scoring on the sacrifice to pad the lead to 5-3. Gutierrez then completed another big night with his second double of the game, driving in Duarte from third and giving the Suns a comfortable 6-3 lead. The Suns are 17-0 this season when scoring six or more runs in a game.
For the Suns, Chris Gutierrez finished 2-for-5, drove in a run and also scored. He extended his hit streak to 12 games with his eighth multi-hit game of the season. Kyle Skipworth went 3-for-4, with a run scored, and added his 29th RBI of the year. It’s the third time this season that Skipworth has had three or more hits in a game. Paul Gran had two singles for his sixth multi-hit game. Joe Leonard provided most of the offense for the Braves, collecting three of the their seven hits.
Omar Poveda won his third straight decision to improve to 6-2. He pitched six and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on six hits. Poveda hasn’t lost since being shuffled back to first in the Suns pitching rotation. Suns All-Star A.J. Ramos entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning, and slammed the door on the Braves the rest of the way for his fourth save of the season.
Mississippi starter Zeke Spruill suffered the loss to drop to 5-6 on the season. He allowed four runs, but only one earned, on six hits in his seven innings of work. He was the victim of the shaky fielding behind him. Spruill matched his season high by striking out eight Suns batters.
The Suns improved their road record to 18-13. Overall, Jacksonville has won five of the last seven games. The Braves have now dropped nine of their last 12, and will finish last in the South Division.
Game two of the series is Thursday from Trustmark Park with the first pitch scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time. The Suns will hand the ball to LHP Jose Alvarez (1-3, 4.19) for his 12th start of the season. The Braves send RHP Gary Moran (1-5, 3.50) to the mound for his 10th start of the year.