Graham Taylor earned his third shutout of the season, allowing seven singles over eight innings in the Suns 2-0 win over the Biscuits at the Baseball Grounds August 3, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns returned home with the stage set for a show down with first place Montgomery, and Graham Taylor delivered a dominating performance leading the Suns to a 2-0 win over the Biscuits Friday night at the Baseball Grounds. With the Suns claiming the first game of the five game series, the Biscuits lead in the South Division has been cut to three games.
The Suns scored all the runs that Taylor would need in the home half of the fourth inning against Biscuits starter Merrill Kelly. With one out, Kyle Skipworth walked to start the rally and designated hitter Kyle Jensen singled to put runners on first and third. Shawn Bowman drove in the first run of the game with a single to left center, with Skipworth racing home to put the Suns on top 1-0. It was Bowman’s 45th RBI of the season, and his first since July 19th. Ben Lasater then collected the Suns third straight single in the inning, with Jensen scoring for a 2-0 lead. Lasater has driven in three runs in his last three games. The Suns have scored the first run of the game in seven of the last eight, and are 42-18 when they cross the plate first.
By blanking the Biscuits for the first time in 2012, Jacksonville now has nine shutouts this season. Montgomery was shutout for the first time since May 28th, a span of 57 games. It’s just the third time this season that the Biscuits have been kept off the scoreboard, with the Mississippi Braves doing the honors the previous two times (April 13th 4-0 and May 28th 6-0).
The Suns have won four straight at the Baseball Grounds, outscoring their opponents 22-13. Overall, the Suns improved to 13-7 in their last 20 games.
Chris Gutierrez went 2-for-3, and now has at least one hit in five straight games and nine of his last 11. Omar Luna led all hitters going 3-for-4 with three singles. Mike Mahtook also collected two hits for the Biscuits to increase his hitting streak to eight games. Montgomery shortstop Hak-Ju Lee singled to extend his on-base streak to 46 games dating back to June 11th. Suns catcher Kyle Skipworth threw out both would-be base stealers on the night, including Hak-Ju Lee, who entered the game with 37 stolen bases and had been caught only eight times.
For the second straight night, the Suns starting pitcher went eight innings. On Thursday, Jose Alvarez pitched a complete game in a 1-0 loss at Mobile. On Friday, Graham Taylor (7-8) threw 101 pitches and scattered seven singles in the win. In his last four starts, Taylor has allowed just three runs over 27 innings of work, and he has won his last three decisions. Biscuits starter Merrill Kelly (6-2) allowed two runs on five hits in the loss. He is 6-0 as a reliever, and 0-2 as a starter this season.
Closer A.J. Ramos entered the game to pitch the ninth, and surrendered a leadoff single to Omar Luna. Ramos then struck out both Derek Dietrich and pinch hitter Kyeong Kang, and enticed Brett Nommensen to ground out to second to end the game. Ramos is tied for second in the Southern League with 16 saves.
The Suns will look to make it two in a row over the Biscuits on Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 PM from the Baseball Grounds. RHP Matthew Neil (1-6, 5.08) takes the mound for the Suns. He has lost his last six decisions. LHP Kyle Lobstein (6-6, 4.03) will start his 22nd game of the season for Montgomery.