Jose Alvarez tossed a two-hitter in the Suns 4-0 rain-shortened win against the Biscuits. Jacksonville completed a five game sweep over Montgomery to win five in a row for the first time this season. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns completed a five-game sweep over the Montgomery Biscuits, with a 4-0 rain-shortened victory on Tuesday night at the Baseball Grounds. The Suns took over sole possession of first place in the South Division with the win. It’s the first time since the 30th game of the first half that the Suns have been alone in first.
Suns starter Jose Alvarez has been the Suns starter for five of the 10 shutouts tossed against Jacksonville this season. Against Montgomery on Tuesday, he turned in his second straight dominating performance in the last week.
After suffering a complete game 1-0 loss last Thursday in Mobile, Alvarez was sharp from the first pitch against the Biscuits. He retired the first seven Biscuits batters of the game, and allowed just two base runners all night. Mark Thomas doubled in the third inning, and Omar Luna legged out an infield single in the fifth for the only two Montgomery hits.
The Suns scored all the runs that Alvarez would need in the home half of the second inning against Biscuits starter Nick Barnese. Leadoff man Curt Smith was hit by a pitch to start the rally, and Kyle Skipworth singled to left to put runners on first and second. Paul Gran drove in the first run of the night with a single to right field, with Smith scoring to give the Suns a 1-0 lead. Barnese then hit Kyle Jensen to load the bases, and with one out walked Donnie Webb to force in Skipworth from third base to increase the Suns advantage to 2-0. With two outs, Chris Gutierrez hit his 20th double of the season, driving in Jensen and Webb to complete the four-run inning. Gutierrez finished 1-for-3 to increase his hitting streak to nine games.
The Suns have outscored their opponents 122 to 78 in the first two innings this season. Jacksonville has won eight straight home games, and 10 of the last 13 overall.
The two teams played through the rain until the middle of the eighth, when the umpires called for the tarp. After a 40 minute delay, the game was officially ruled complete, with the Suns earning their third shutout of the series. The Suns have 11 shutouts this season, with nine of the 11 at the Baseball Grounds.
The Suns began the series four games behind the Biscuits in the South. After completing their first sweep of the season, the Suns are one game up. Jacksonville outscored Montgomery 25-8 in the five games. It’s just the second five-game losing streak this season for the Biscuits, who were swept by Birmingham in the first half. The Suns and Biscuits will square off one more time, with a five-game series at Riverwalk Stadium August 24th-28th.
Jose Alvarez (5-6) pitched a two-hitter in the win, allowing just a single and a double. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. Alvarez also tossed a two-hitter against the Tennessee Smokies June 22nd in a 2-0 victory to earn pitcher of the week honors. Nick Barnese (2-1) allowed four runs on four hits, and lost for the first time this season. Barnese missed the first half of the season after suffering a shoulder strain during spring training.
The first place Suns begin a five game series with the Mobile BayBears on Wednesday at the Baseball Grounds, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. LHP Graham Taylor (7-8, 3.81) will start for Jacksonville. Taylor was named the Southern League Pitcher of the Week after blanking the Biscuits in the first game of the last series.