By Steve Kolbe
The Montgomery Biscuits scored five times in the sixth inning on the way to an 8-3 win over the Suns on Thursday at Riverwalk Stadium. The Biscuits improved to 5-3 in the second half, and took sole possession of first place in the South Division.
Before many found their seats, Jake Smolinski hit his second home run of the season, swinging at the first pitch of the game and sending it over the left field wall to put the Suns in front 1-0. It’s the second time this season that Jacksonville has had their first batter of the game go deep. Donnie Webb hit a home run against Tennessee while leading off on June 22nd at the Baseball Grounds.
The Biscuits threatened in the third inning when they loaded the bases with only one out. After falling behind in the count 3-0 to Tyler Bortnick, Suns starter Bryan Evans wiggled his way out of the jam when Bortnick grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Montgomery started another rally in the fifth inning when Mark Thomas reached base with an infield single, and Ty Morrison doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. Evans then let a pitch get away, hitting Ryan Garko in the batting helmet to load the bases. Kyeong Kang walked on four pitches, pushing Thomas across the plate to tie the game 1-1. Bortnick came to the plate with the bases full of Biscuits for the second time in three innings, and came up empty again when he grounded into another inning ending double play.
Kyle Jensen gave the Suns a 2-1 lead in the sixth, hammering the first pitch of the inning to deep left-center field for his tenth home run of the season. Jensen has hit a home run in two straight games, and is the first Suns player to reach double digits.
Jacksonville summoned reliever Chris Squires to begin the sixth inning. He walked the first batter that he faced in his return to the Suns when he gave Tyler Bortnick a free pass. After Bortnick advanced to second base on a wild pitch, Squires settled down and retired the next two batters he faced. With two outs, Mark Thomas hit a hard grounder to third and Shawn Bowman’s throw to first sailed over the head of Curt Smith, with Sexton scoring to even the score 2-2.
After Hak-Ju Lee was issued an intentional walk, Ty Morrison drove in Thomas with a single to right field to put the Biscuits ahead to stay at 3-2. Squires then fell behind in the count 3-1 to Ryan Garko and when he tried to challenge him with the fastball, Garko smashed his fifth home run of the season to left-center. The three-run blast increased the Biscuits lead to 6-2. Garko has reached base safely in 11 straight games. Montgomery sent eight men to the plate and scored five runs on three hits in the inning.
The Biscuits added to their lead in the seventh inning against Zach Neal, when Greg Sexton hit a two-run home run to make the score 8-3. Montgomery has scored 54 runs in the first eight games of the second half (over seven runs per game). The Biscuits improved to 26-3 when they score six or more runs, the Suns have only three victories when they score three or fewer.
Jake Smolinski and Jeff Dominguez each had multi-hit games for the Suns. For Montgomery, Tyler Bortnick extended his team-high hit streak to 14 games with his infield single in the second inning. Mark Thomas finished 3-for-4 with three singles and scored two runs. Hak-Ju Lee and Ty Morrison each collected two hits. Lee extended his hit streak to nine games.
The Biscuits leadoff hitters made things difficult for Suns pitchers throughout the night, reaching base in seven of the eight innings (triple, double, two singles, three walks). The Suns have scored the first run in all three games of the series but have lost twice.
Suns starter Bryan Evans (2-5) didn’t figure in the decision after allowing just one run on five hits over five innings. Chris Squires (0-1) suffered the loss after giving up five runs on three hits in the sixth inning. Biscuits starter Jake Thompson (5-5) allowed three runs on seven hits and earned the win. Thompson went 0-4 in his first seven starts of the season, but is 5-1 in his last seven starts. Neil Schenk allowed just one hit over the final two and two-thirds innings for his first save of the season.
Game four of the series is Friday night from Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. EST. The Suns will send LHP Graham Taylor (4-6, 4.54) to the mound for his sixteenth start of the season. The Biscuits will look to win the series with RHP Joe Cruz (5-6, 4.96) on the hill for his fifteenth start of the year.