By Steve Kolbe
The Suns won for the sixth straight time at the Baseball Grounds, pulling to within one game of first place in the South Division, with a 7-1 win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Sunday night. The Suns began the series four games off the pace in the division.
The Biscuits snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak when Hak-Ju Lee hit a home run off of Suns starter Bryan Evans on the first pitch of the game. It’s the only run of the series for Montgomery, with the Suns outscoring the Biscuits 10-1 in the first three games. The Biscuits have been held to 14 hits, with only two for extra bases.
The Suns took the lead in the home half of the first off of Biscuits starter Jake Thompson. Jake Smolinski led off with a double, and went to third on a single by Chris Gutierrez. Paul Gran then drove in the first run of the night with a sacrifice fly, with Smolinski coasting home to tie the game 1-1. After Kyle Skipworth reached on an error by first baseman Michael Sheridan, Curt Smith drove in Gutierrez with a RBI single to put the Suns in front to stay 2-1.
In the second inning, Gutierrez walked with two outs and scored all the way from first on Paul Gran’s fourth triple of the season to straight-away center field to make the score 3-1. Jacksonville has outscored opponents 118-78 in the first two innings this season.
The first four batters for the Suns reached base in the fifth with Jacksonville adding to the lead. The big hit came off the bat of Kyle Skipworth, who homered to right-center field for the second straight night for his 16th round tripper of the season to make the score 4-1. Skipworth has hit nine of the Suns last 18 homers. Taylor Krick drove in a run with a groundout, and Donnie Webb plated a run with a sacrifice fly and the Suns were up 6-1.
Jacksonville tacked on one more in the eighth inning. With runners on first and third, Gutierrez drove a run with a ground out to put the Suns up 7-1. The Suns improved to 14-13 against the South Division in the second half with the win.
Eight of the nine Suns hitters in the game either drove in or scored at least one run. Chris Gutierrez went 1-for-4 to extend his hit streak to six games and scored twice. Jake Smolinski finished 2-for-4 for his 20th multi-hit game of the season.
The Suns have won eight of their last 11 games, and allowed three runs or fewer eight times. Jacksonville pitchers have given up just two runs and 19 hits over the last four games. On the 19 hits, only three have been for extra bases (one HR, two doubles).
Bryan Evans (4-6) allowed one run on three hits in 5.1 innings of work for the win. He tied his season-high with eight strikeouts. Evans is now 2-3 at the Baseball Grounds. Jake Thompson (7-10) surrendered six runs on seven hits and lost his fourth straight game.
The Suns can tie the Biscuits for first place with a win Monday night. Jacksonville hasn’t won four games in a row since April, and the Biscuits haven’t lost four straight since April.
The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from the Baseball Grounds. LHP Brian Flynn (1-0, 3.86) will start his third game for the Suns. RHP Matt Buschmann (5-6, 4.00) gets the call for the Biscuits.