By Steve Kolbe
A towering three-run home run by Kyle Jensen helped the Jacksonville Suns to a 5-3 win over the Mobile BayBears on Thursday night at the Baseball Grounds. After losing both games of a double header on Tuesday, the Suns have now won two straight to even the series and more importantly gain ground on the BayBears in the South Division.
Mobile took the lead in the third against Suns starter Graham Taylor when Wladimir Sutil led off the inning with his seventh double of the season. After a sacrifice bunt by the pitcher Gaby Hernandez pushed Sutil to third, Alfredo Marte drove him in with a sacrifice fly to put Mobile on top 1-0. Marte is tied for third in the Southern League with 33 RBI.
The Suns drew even in the fifth, when Kyle Skipworth was hit by BayBears pitcher Gaby Hernandez to lead off the inning. Kyle Jensen then hit a ground ball to third baseman Matt Davidson, but instead of starting a double play, the ball rolled under his glove and into left field with Skipworth going all the way to third and Jensen to second. It was the third error committed by Davidson in the last two games. Jeff Dominguez stepped in and sent a sacrifice fly to center for his tenth RBI of the season, with Skipworth scoring to tie the game 1-1.
In the sixth, the Suns broke the game open scoring four runs on four hits against Hernandez. Chris Gutierrez led off with a walk, and was sacrificed to second by Paul Gran. Jake Smolinski scratched out an infield single to put runners on the corners with one out. Shawn Bowman delivered with his 25th RBI of the season, a line drive single to center field with Gutierrez scoring to put the Suns in front 2-1. Kyle Jensen cleared the bases with a manager’s best friend, the three-run home run. Jensen turned on a Hernandez pitch and smashed a mammoth blast that hit the scoreboard in left field to make the score 5-1. Jensen leads the Suns with seven home runs.
Brent Clevlen hit a solo home run off of Taylor in the seventh to cut the Suns lead to 5-2, and Alfredo Marte hit a solo home run off of Evan Reed in the eighth to edge the BayBears closer but that would be all for the Mobile offense. Reed struck out the side in the eighth. The home run by Marte is the first round tripper that Reed has given up this season. Mobile tied the Jackson Generals for the most home runs in the league with 40. The Generals are at the Baseball Grounds next week for a five game series.
Five different players had one hit for the Suns, with Jensen hitting Jacksonville’s second three-run home run in as many days against Mobile. For the BayBears, Matt Davidson finished 2-for-4 with a single and a double. Alfredo Marte hit his 11th home run of the season and drove in two of the BayBears three runs. Marte and Davidson are now tied for the league lead with 11 homers each.
The BayBears have been held to three runs or fewer in seven straight games and eight of their last 10, but have managed to win six times. The Suns have scored at least five runs in two straight games for the first time in 13 games.
After snapping their eight-game losing streak to the BayBears with a 9-0 victory on Wednesday, the Suns have won two straight over Mobile for just second time this season. Jacksonville is now 5-24 when allowing their opponent to score first, while the BayBears fell to 23-8 when taking the lead.
Suns starting pitcher Graham Taylor won for the first time in over a month (April 28th vs. Pensacola) and improved his record to 3-4 with two of the wins against Mobile. He allowed two runs on six hits over his seven innings of work, throwing 77 pitches, 55 for strikes. Against Mobile this season Taylor has allowed just three earned runs on 11 hits over 20.2 innings pitched. Taylor has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his 11 starts. Evan Reed fanned three batters in the eighth inning. A.J. Ramos was overpowering in the ninth, striking out the side for his second save of the season. BayBears starter Gaby Hernandez allowed five runs on five hits, and has now lost his first two starts with the BayBears after signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks two weeks ago.
The series is up for grabs on Friday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05p.m. RHP Matthew Neil (0-0, 8.38) will start his third game for the Suns. LHP Tyler Skaggs (3-3, 2.72) is set to start his tenth game of the season for Mobile.