Kyle Greene belted a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning for his first home run of the season to lead the BayBears past the Suns 9-3 at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Photo Courtesy: Mobile BayBears
By Steve Kolbe
The Mobile BayBears scored nine unanswered runs to defeat the Jacksonville Suns 9-3 on Sunday night at Hank Aaron Stadium. The BayBears erased a 3-0 deficit to snap a season-high seven game losing streak, and in the process ended the Suns three-game winning streak. Jacksonville hasn’t won four straight games in three months (April 4th through May 2nd).
Jacksonville took the lead in the second inning against BayBears starter Mike Bolsinger, when Kyle Jensen smashed a towering solo home run to left field to put the Suns up 1-0. According to Hank Aaron Stadium staff, the home run was the longest hit at “The Hank” this season. Jensen leads the Suns with 13 round trippers this season.
In the top of the third inning, after Suns pitcher Matthew Neil drew a walk, Jake Smolinski hit a two-run home run to increase the lead to 3-0. Smolinski has hit all three of his home runs in the second half of the season. Smolinski’a blast ended a stretch in which 10 straight Suns homers had been hit by the trio of Kyle Skipworth, Kyle Jensen, and Donnie Webb.
The BayBears put a run on the board in the home half of the third, when Chris Owings connected for a solo home run off of Matthew Neil to cut the Suns lead to 3-1. Neil tossed six innings allowing just that one run, and was in line for the win to snap his personal six-game losing streak when the game was put in the hands of the Suns bullpen.
Reliever Jordan Conley entered the game for the bottom seventh with a two-run lead, and allowed the first four BayBears batters to reach base. Ryan Strieby led off with a double, and what followed changed the course of the game. David Nick hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to second, but the ball took a bad hop and veered severely to the right away from second baseman Alfredo Lopez, with Nick safe with an infield single. Conley then committed a balk to move the runners to second and third with no outs. Rossmel Perez singled to drive in Strieby to cut the lead to 3-2, and Dan Kaczrowski followed with a RBI single with Nick crossing the plate to even the score 3-3.
Bobby Bramhall took over for Conley on the mound, and Vladimir Sutil promptly drove in the go-ahead run with a ground out to give the BayBears the lead 4-3. With Mobile attempting a double-steal, a throwing error by catcher Jake Jefferies allowed a run to score and the BayBears had tacked on another for a 5-3 advantage. The Suns have blown a three-run leads in a loss just twice this season, both times on the road (May 23rd at Chattanooga and July 29th at Mobile).
In the bottom of the eighth inning Matt Davidson doubled, Ryan Strieby was hit by a pitch, and David Nick scratched out an infield single to load the bases with no outs. Bramhall retired the next two batters he faced, but pinch hitter Kyle Greene didn’t allow the Suns to escape the inning, connecting for a two-out grand slam to make the score 9-3. It was Greene’s first round tripper of the season, and the BayBears fourth grand slam.
After not allowing a grand slam in the first 104 games of the season, the Suns have been nicked for a grand slam in two straight games. The Baybears won for just the fifth time when trailing after the sixth inning (5-38), while the Suns lost for just the fourth time when leading after six (36-4).
The nine runs are the most that the BayBears have scored against the Suns in a game this season. Mobile has won 11 of 16 games in the season series. After winning three of the first five games of the year against the BayBears, the Suns have lost 10 of the last 12 meetings. The Suns are 30-35 against their rivals from the South Division, 9-11 in the second half.
Jake Smolinski, Paul Gran, and Danny Pertusati each finished with two hits for the Suns. Pitcher Matthew Neil reached base on an error and scored a run. A Suns starter has reached base in five straight games, and scored a run in three straight. Every player in the starting lineup for the BayBears had at least one of the 12 hits with Chris Owings, David Nick, and Rossmel Perez each with two.
Neither starter figured in the decision on Sunday night. Matthew Neil held Mobile to one run on five hits in his six innings of work. He struck out six without walking a batter. It’s been a tale of two different season’s for Neil. He began the year with seven straight wins (6-0 with Jupiter), including a victory in his first Double-A start with the Suns June 6th against Pensacola. Since June 11th, has made nine starts, and lost six straight decisions. Jordan Conley (1-3) allowed four runs on four hits in the loss, and didn’t record an out.
Mike Bolsinger allowed three runs on five hits over six innings in his ninth start of the season. Eric Smith (2-0) pitched the seventh inning for Mobile to earn the win.
Game two of the series is Monday with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. from Hank Aaron Stadium. RHP Bryan Evans (3-6, 4.15) will start for the Suns. RHP Brett Lorin (3-6, 4.73) will take the mound for the BayBears.