Suns starter Matthew Neil(above left)pitched six shutout innings, and Ben Lasater (above right)drove in both runs with a pinch-hit single in the Suns 2-0 win over the Mobile BayBears. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns won their ninth straight home game and a season-high six straight overall, with a 2-0 shutout over the Mobile BayBears on Tuesday night at the Baseball Grounds. The Suns have outscored their opponents by a combined 47-21 during their home winning streak. Four of the last six victories have been by shutout. Jacksonville is 8-13 against Mobile this season, with each team scoring 71 runs in the season series. Three of the Suns eight wins have been shutouts.
Suns starter Matthew Neil entered the game in search of his first win since June. He surrendered just five singles over his six innings of work, and only once did he allow more than one base runner in an inning. Neil and three relievers combined on a five-hitter, all singles.
The Suns were held without a hit through the first four innings by BayBears starter Derek Eitel, until Danny Pertusati singled in the fifth inning to give the Suns first hit of the game. Jacksonville scored the only runs of the night in the bottom of sixth. Curt Smith and Paul Gran singled to put runners on first and third with one out. After Kyle Jensen struck out, the BayBears intentionally walked Pertusati to get to the pitcher’s spot. Ben Lasater emerged from the dugout to pinch hit for Matthew Neil, and after running the count full against Eitel, delivered by smashing a single to center field with both Smith and Gran crossing the plate to give the Suns a 2-0 lead. Jacksonville improved to 45-18 when scoring the first run of the game.
Mobile won eight of the first 10 meetings between the two teams at the Baseball Grounds. The Suns improved to 17-9 at home in the second half with the win, and are alone in first place for the first time since May 4th. Jacksonville has won 11 of the last 14 games, limiting opponents to three runs or fewer 10 times.
The BayBears fell to 8-18 on the road, and after finishing the first half in the South Division with a 40-30 record, the BayBears have struggled to a 17-29 record in the second half.
Matthew Neil (2-6) allowed five hits over six innings to earn his second Double-A victory, and win his first game since June 1st at Pensacola. The win is Neil’s first at home this season. A.J. Ramos entered the game in the eighth inning with two on and one out. He retired the all five batters that he faced in the game, striking out three, for his 17th save of the season. Derek Eitel (7-9) allowed two runs on four hits, struck out four and walked six in the loss. He has dropped five of his last six decisions.
Five different Suns players had one hit. Ben Lasater increased his RBI total to eight by driving in two runs with his single in the sixth inning. Shortstop Chris Gutierrez had his nine-game hitting streak come to an end. He went 0-for-1 before leaving the game in the fifth inning after being hit in the left forearm with a pitch. Evan Frey and Alfredo Marte each finished with two of the BayBears six singles. The two teams were a combined 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Game two of the series is Thursday night from the Baseball Grounds, with the first pitch slated for 7:35 p.m. LHP Graham Taylor (7-8, 3.81) is scheduled to start for the Suns. RHP Michael Bolsinger (3-2, 3.78) will take the mound for the BayBears.