By Steve Kolbe
A day after allowing a season-high 13 runs, the Jacksonville Suns rebounded for a 6-1 win over the Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Mississippi on Friday night.
The Suns broke the ice in the first inning against Braves starter Luis Avilan. Donnie Webb led off the inning with a walk, and Jake Smolinski reached on a throwing error by third baseman Joe Terdoslavich, with Webb advancing to third on the play. Avilan then threw his fourth wild pitch of the season, with Webb scoring to give the Suns a 1-0 advantage. The Suns have scored at least one run in the first inning in 18 games this season, and are 15-3 in those games. Jacksonville is now 26-6 when crossing the plate first.
In the third inning, Webb found himself in the middle of the offense again when he led off with a single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Shawn Bowman to increase the Suns lead to 2-0.
Suns starter Bryan Evans baffled the Braves throughout the night, and after allowing a single in the first inning he retired the next 16 batters he faced until the seventh inning. In the seventh, Keenan Wiley led off with a bunt single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Tim Smith put the Braves on the board with a RBI single, with Wiley scoring to cut the Suns lead to 2-1. Kyle Kaminska took over for Evans to record the final out of the inning.
In the eighth inning, the Suns scored four runs against reliever Brett Cammons, all with two outs. Jake Smolinksi walked and scored when Shawn Bowman hit his team-leading 16th double of the season, and the lead was 3-1. Kyle Jensen extended the inning when he reached base on an infield single, with Smolinski moving around to third to put runners on the corners. Curt Smith delivered the big hit in the inning, with a towering three-run home run to left field to pad the Suns lead to 6-1. After going without a round tripper since the first series of the year, Smith has now hit two home runs in his last four games.
The Suns have won seven of their last 10 road games, and improved to 19-14 away from home this season. Jacksonville has scored at least five runs in six of their last seven road wins. The Suns won for just the second time this season on Friday (2-9). The Braves have lost six of their last eight games overall. Mississippi has won two games in a row only once in the last 22 games.
Suns shortstop Chris Gutierrez extended his hit streak to 14 games with a single in the third inning. He hasn’t gone hitless since May 30th. Mississippi center fielder Todd Cunningham also increased his hit streak to 14 consecutive games with a single in the first. Shawn Bowman drove in two runs for the Suns, and now leads the team with 32 runs batted in. Curt Smith has hit two three-run home runs in the last week, and he now has 27 runs batted in this season.
Bryan Evans entered the game among the top five pitchers in the league in lowest batting average against. He had a dominant performance, pitching six and two-thirds innings and allowing one run on three hits to improve his record to 2-4. He has won his last two decisions. Evans struck out a season-high eight batters, including striking out the side in the second inning and retiring the side in the third on just nine pitches. Evans retired 16 Braves in a row after allowing a single in the first inning. Kyle Kaminska and A.J. Ramos combined to pitch the final two and a-third innings.
Braves starter Luis Avilan pitched a season-high six innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run, but saw his record fall to 1-5 on the season.