By Steve Kolbe
In a game that was delayed twice by rain for a total of 3 hours and 21 minutes, four Jacksonville pitchers combined on a two-hitter in the Suns 1-0 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Saturday night. The Suns have limited the second-best hitting team in the Southern League to just nine hits in the series, with just one for extra bases. The Suns have now tossed a pair of two-hitters this season.
A day after Graham Taylor and A.J. Ramos combined to blank Montgomery, Matthew Neil and three relievers combined for the Suns 10th shutout of the season. Eight of the Suns shutouts this season have been at the Baseball Grounds, and eight different Suns pitchers have a shutout win.
The Suns have won five straight home games for the first time this season, and have outscored opponents 23-13 along the way. Overall, Jacksonville is 14-7 in the last 21 games. After having just five wins all season when scoring less than three runs in a game (5-37), the Suns have won two straight when being held to under three runs.
After the second rain delay of the night, Kyle Skipworth provided the only run of the game in the bottom of the second when he smashed his 15th home run of the season off of Biscuits reliever Marquis Fleming.
Skipworth has hit eight homers and 12 RBI’s in his last 16 games. Skipworth has surpassed his total from the 2011 campaign, when he finished with 11 round trippers in 106 games.
The Suns have scored the first run of the game in eight of their last nine contests, and have a record of 43-18 when crossing the plate first. The Suns improved to 20-14 in games played on Saturday and Sunday.
Suns starter Matthew Neil didn’t allow a hit in his two innings of work, but wouldn’t return after the second rain delay. James Leverton (3-0) took over and allowed just two hits and struck out five over four innings for the win. In his last four appearances, Leverton has two wins and a save. Edgar Olmos tossed two innings of hitless baseball in his first appearance with the Suns since he started a game April 15th. Arquimedes Caminero was overpowering in the ninth, retiring all three batters he faced on pop ups, to earn his first save with the Suns.
Montgomery had been shutout only twice all season entering the series, and hadn’t suffered a shutout loss in 57 games before arriving in Jacksonville. After not recording a shutout in a span of 38 games, Jacksonville has two straight for the second time this season (June 10th with 7-0 and 9-0 wins over the Jackson Generals). Eight different Suns pitchers have earned a win in a Jacksonville shutout this season.
The Suns had just three hits in the game. In addition to the Skipworth’s home run, Alfredo Lopez had a single, and Chris Gutierrez extended his hit streak to six games with a single in the first inning. He has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games. Catcher Mark Thomas had both hits for the Biscuits, the rest of the team went 0-for-25 on the night.
The home stand continues Sunday night with game three of the series from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 PM. RHP Bryan Evans (3-6, 4.05) will start his 22nd game of the season for the Suns. RHP Jacob Thompson (7-9, 5.20) takes the hill for the Biscuits.