Jose Alvarez(above)allowed just two runs on eight hits in the Suns 3-2 win over the Mississippi Braves to earn his first win in a month. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, and also stole a base. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns built a 3-0 lead over the Mississippi Braves, and hung on for a 3-2 victory on Saturday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Suns have won six of the last eight games.
The Suns figured out Braves starter Gary Moran in the fourth inning. Jake Smolinski and Chris Gutierrez both singled, and went to second and third on a ground out by Jeff Dominguez. Kyle Jensen then drove in the first run of the night with a ground out to put the Suns up 1-0. Jensen leads the Suns with 47 runs batted in. With their second one-run win in the series, the Suns improved to 17-18 in games decided by a single digit.
In the sixth inning Chris Gutierrez was hit by a pitch, Jeff Dominguez singled, and Kyle Jensen singled to load the bases with no outs. Ben Lasater then jumped on the first offering from Moran, driving in two runs with a single, with both Gutierrez and Dominguez scoring to increase the lead to 3-0.
The Braves managed just five hits in the first seven innings against Alvarez, and didn’t have more than one hit in any inning until the eighth. Todd Cunningham bunted his way on, and Jaime Pedroza doubled behind him to put runners on second and third with one out. After Joe Terdoslavich popped up, Tim Smith delivered a two-out single with both Cunningham and Pedroza scoring to cut the Suns lead to 3-2. Josh Schmidt entered the game and struck out Joe Leonard to end the inning. In a twist from the first two games of the series, Suns reliever Jon Link made sure that there wouldn’t be a ninth inning comeback in this one.
Suns manager Andy Barkett was ejected in the sixth inning after arguing a play at the plate, when Kyle Jensen was called out at home after Braves catcher Matt Kennelly made a sweeping tag. It was the fifth time that Barkett has been thrown out this season, by five different umpiring crews.
Jake Smolinski finished 2-for-4 and scored a run for the Suns. Jose Alvarez went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and stole a base. Alvarez and Graham Taylor are the only Suns pitchers with two hits in a game this season. Chris Gutierrez extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a third inning single. Ben Lasater drove in two of the Suns three runs. Joe Terdoslavich collected three of the Braves eight hits in the game.
Suns starter Jose Alvarez (3-5) allowed two runs on eight hits to record his first win in a month. He has surrendered two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts. Alvarez hadn’t won since blanking Tennessee June 22, when he was named the Southern League pitcher of the week. Jon Link has emerged from the Suns bullpen to figure in both wins in the series. He earned the win in the first game of the series, and threw just eight pitches in the ninth for the save on Saturday. Braves starter Gary Moran (3-8) allowed three runs on eight hits in the loss.
The Suns will look to win the series on Sunday with the first pitch slated for 3:05 p.m. from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. LHP Graham Taylor (5-8, 4.44) will start for the Suns. RHP Zeke Spruill (6-9, 4.18) takes the hill for the Braves.