By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns snapped their season-high seven-game losing streak, defeating the Birmingham Barons 13-7 on Sunday night at the Baseball Grounds. It’s the ninth time the Suns have scored 10 or more runs in a game, with six of the offensive explosions at home.
The Barons took the lead in the first inning against Suns starter Matthew Neil. Tyler Saladino led off with a double, and Carlos Sanchez followed with a double to left-center, with the speedy Saladino scoring all the way from first to put Birmingham up 1-0. The Barons entered the game with a record of 40-20 when scoring the first run of the game.
The Suns broke the ice against Barons starting pitcher Andre Rienzo in the bottom of the fourth. After retiring the first 10 batters of the game, Rienzo surrendered a single to Chris Gutierrez with one out in the fourth. Zack Cox then got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and delivered with a double to center field, with Guiterrez scoring from first to even the score 1-1. Cox has driven in 11 runs in 13 games with the Suns after being acquired by Miami from St. Louis.
Birmingham took the lead in the sixth against Neil, with the first four batters in the inning all reaching base. Leadoff hitter Trayce Thompson jumped on the first pitch he saw and belted a solo home run to left to put the Barons up 2-1. Since being promoted from Class-A Winston-Salem on August 13th, Thompson has nine hits including his first two Double-A home runs. It was the 10th round tripper that Neil has surrendered this season. Neil walked both Andy Wilkins and Seth Loman, and a single by Brady Showemaker loaded the bases with no outs. Jose Martinez cashed in with a double to right field, with both Wilkins and Shoemaker racing around to score to increase the Barons lead to 4-1.
The Suns sent 13 men to the plate in the home half of the sixth, scoring a season-high eight runs on eight hits in the inning to take a 9-4 lead. Barons reliever Leroy Hunt was touched for four runs on five hits and didn’t retire a batter in the inning. With Chris Gutierrez and Zach Cox aboard, Kyle Jensen drove in the first two runs in the inning with his second triple of the season. Gutierrez plated a pair of runs his second time at bat with his 23rd double of the year. Jake Smolinski, Ben Lasater, Aaron Dudley, and Dallas Poulk each drove in a run. Jacksonville batted around in an inning for the 13th time this season.
The Suns scored all eight of their runs in the sixth inning with two outs. The Suns previous high for most runs in an inning was seven (April 23rd vs. Mobile; June 25th vs. Tennessee; July 31st @ Mobile).
Birmingham used the long ball in the seventh against Suns reliever Grant Dayton to inch closer. Andy Wilkins smashed a two-run home run, and Seth Loman added a solo blast to cut the Suns lead to 9-7. The duo share the team lead with 16 home runs each.
In the home half of the seventh, Zack Cox led off with a walk and scored when Kyle Skipworth just missed a home run, hitting a double off the wall in the deepest part of the ball park to pad the Suns lead to 1-7. Jacksonville tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth for the 13-7 final. The Suns improved to 16-43 when allowing the first run of the game.
The Suns ended their season-high seven game losing streak, and are now just three games behind the Montgomery Biscuits in the pennant race in the South Division. The Birmingham Barons have lost seven of their last 10 games.
Jacksonville tied a season-high with 15 hits in the game (August 6th vs. Montgomery). The Suns managed a triple, three doubles, and 11 singles on the night. Every player in the Suns lineup had at least one hit and drove in at least one run. Kyle Jensen and Chris Gutierrez each crossed the plate three times. Chris Gutierrez, Zack Cox, Ben Lasater, Aaron Dudley, Donnie Webb, and Dallas Poulk each collected two hits in the game. Poulk finished with three RBI’s, with Gutierrez and Jensen each driving in a pair of runs.
Grant Dayton (1-0) allowed three runs on three hits over an inning and a-third to record his first win with the Suns. Andre Rienzo (4-2) surrendered five runs on five hits in the loss. He had allowed a total of six earned runs over 19 innings in his previous three starts.
Game two of the series is Monday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM from the Baseball Grounds. LHP Graham Taylor (7-10, 4.11) will take the mound for the 24th time this season for the Suns. RHP Nestor Molina (4-9, 4.70) will start his 19th game for the Barons.