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Suns Fall To Biscuits; Drop Into First Place Tie

Catcher Mark Thomas drove in the go-ahead runs with a double in the seventh inning, helping the Biscuits top the Jacksonville Suns 7-4 at Riverwalk Stadium August 28, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe

The Montgomery Biscuits avoided being swept and moved back into a tie for first place, defeating the Jacksonville Suns 7-4 on Tuesday night at Riverwalk Stadium.  The Suns and Biscuits have identical 35-30 records and are tied atop the South Division with five games remaining in the regular season for each team.  

The Biscuits broke the ice against Suns starter Brian Flynn with a two out rally in the third inning.   After striking out Kyeong Kang and Ty Morrison, Flynn allowed singles to both Omar Luna and Shawn O’Malley, and a walk to Mikie Mahtook to load the bases.  Derek Dietrich was then hit by a pitch to force in O’Malley from third to give the Biscuits a 1-0 lead.  The Suns fell to 18-45 this season when allowing the first run of the game.
 
The Suns stormed back in the top of the fourth sending eight men to the plate against Biscuits pitcher Jake Thompson.  With one out, Kyle Jensen walked and Danny Pertusati singled and then advanced a base on a wild pitch.  Jose Duarte then walked to load the bases.  Kyle Jensen scored on Thompson’s second wild pitch of the inning to tie the game 1-1.  After Alfredo Lopez reached base on a single to load the bases again, both Duarte and Lopez came around to score on a throwing error by catcher Mark Thomas to put the Suns in front 3-1.  Chris Gutierrez then drove in his 45th run of the season with a double off the left field wall, with Jake Smolinski scoring to increase the lead to 4-1.
 
The Biscuits had an answer in the fifth with Ty Morrison leading off with a double, Shawn O’Malley hit by a pitch, and Omar Luna hitting a single to left field to load the bases.  Mikie Mahtook drove in a run with a ground out to cut the Suns advantage to 4-2.  Dietrich tied the game 4-4 when he delivered with a single back up the middle, with O’Malley and Luna crossing the plate. 
 
Montgomery grabbed the lead in the seventh against Suns reliever Grant Dayton.  Luna doubled to start the inning, and Dietrich bunted his way aboard to put runners on first and third.  Mark Thomas drove in both base runners with a double down the left field line to give the Biscuits the lead 6-4.  Kyeong Kang increased the lead to 7-4 with a RBI-single later in the inning.  It was his first RBI in his last eight games.  The Suns had outscored the Biscuits 23-11 in the first four games of the series.
 
The Suns five-game winning streak came to an end, a stretch where Suns relievers tossed 18.2 scoreless innings.  Jacksonville has still won eight of the last 10 games.  The Biscuits snapped their five-game losing streak.  The Suns won the season series 13-10.
 
The Suns finished the 2012 campaign 43-41 against division opponents, six more victories than last season.  On the road the Suns are 32-33, and have won seven of their 14 road series this season.
 
Chris Gutierrez and Kyle Jensen each finished 2-for-4 for the Suns.  Gutierrez hit his team-leading 25th double of the season.  Jensen recorded his 19th multi-hit game of the season.  
 
Derek Dietrich and Mark Thomas combined to drive in five runs.  Dietrich finished 2-for-4 with three RBI, and Thomas was 2-for-3 and drove in in a pair of runs.  Omar Luna extended his hitting streak to nine games going 3-for-5 with two runs scored.  He is third in the Southern League in batting and finished the five-game series 10-for-21 with two straight three-hit games.
 
Suns starter Brian Flynn did not figure in the decision for the fourth straight outing.  He allowed four runs on six hits in 4.2 innings.  Grant Dayton (2-1) allowed three runs on four hits in 1.2 innings in the loss.  Biscuits starter Jake Thompson surrendered four runs on eight hits over five innings in the no decision.  He hasn’t won a start since July 14th.  Marquise Fleming (4-5) tossed two hitless innings for the win.  Matt Nevarez struck out two in a perfect ninth to earn a save in his Biscuits debut.
 
The Suns begin a pivotal five-game series in Jackson on Thursday night.   The Generals own the best record overall record in the Southern League (76-59), and the best home record (41-24).   In a match up of left handers, Jose Alvarez (6-8, 3.97) will start his 24th game of the season for the Suns against James Paxton (8-4, 3.05) for the Generals.  
 
The Suns took three of five games from the Generals at the Baseball Grounds earlier this season by a combined score of 20-11 with two shutouts.
 
 
 

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The Suns Are One-Hit, But Win 1-0

Kyle Skipworth’s RBI-single in the fourth inning was the lone hit for the Jacksonville Suns in a 1-0 win over Biscuits starter Matt Buschmann(above)at Riveralk Stadium August 27, 2012. Photo Coutesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe 

The Jacksonville Suns were held to just one single and had just three base runners, but blanked the Montgomery Biscuits 1-0 on Monday night at Riverwalk Stadium to take sole possession of first place in the South Division with six games remaining in the regular season.
 
After dropping nine of the first 12 games against the Biscuits, the Suns have now won 10 straight games over Montgomery, outscoring the Biscuits 52-21.  It’s the Suns longest winning streak against any opponent this season.
 
In a pitchers duel, the Suns plated the lone run of the night in the top of the fourth against Biscuits starter Matt Buschmann.  Jake Smolinski drew a leadoff walk, and Zack Cox walked with one out to put runners on first and second.  Smolinski has walked 73 times this season, tied for second-most in the league.  With two outs, Kyle Skipworth hit ground ball on an 0-2 pitch, past the outstretched glove of second baseman Derek Dietrich, and into right field for the RBI-single to give the Suns a 1-0 lead.  Skipworth has just five hits with runners in scoring position and two outs this season (5-for-47 with six RBI).  He has driven in five runs in the series.
 
Fun Fact:  Kyle Skipworth has had the Suns only single in two one-hitters this season.  One win and one loss.  Jacksonville was shutout 1-0 on a one-hitter April 12th by the Chattanooga Lookouts at the Baseball Grounds, with Skipworth collecting a single in the second inning for the only hit of the game against Aaron Miller, Red Patterson, and Shawn Tolleson.
 
The Suns have won five straight, and eight of the last nine games after a season-high seven game losing streak.  The Biscuits have dropped five in a row, and have just three wins in their last 11 outings.
 
The Suns had their steak of scoring at least five runs in a game snapped at eight.  The Biscuits collected seven hits in the game, with six singles and a triple.  The Biscuits had at least one runner on base in every inning except the second, but had more than one base runner in an inning only once.  Omar Luna finished 3-for-4 and has the third-best batting average in the league this season.
 
The Suns have 14 shutouts during the 2012 campaign, doubling their total of seven from last season.  The Suns have held the Biscuits off the scoreboard four times during their 10-game winning streak against Montgomery:
 
*Graham Taylor and A.J. Ramos combined on a 1-0 win over the Biscuits August 3rd. 
*Four Suns pitchers combined on a two-hitter against Montgomery August 4th. 
*Jose Alvarez tossed a complete-game two-hitter in a 4-0 win over the Biscuits August 7th.
 
Bryan Evans (6-8) put together one of his strongest outings of the season.  He threw 92 pitches, 60 for strikes, and allowed four singles and a triple in his seven innings for the victory.  Evans has won four of his last six decisions, with two of the wins coming at the expense of the Biscuits. 
 
Matt Buschmann (6-8) surrendered a lone RBI-single to Kyle Skipworth in the loss.  Buschmann enticed the Suns into 16 ground outs, and allowed just three base runners in the game, all in the fouth inning.  Kirby Yates pitched the ninth for the Biscuits to combine with Buschmann on the one-hitter.
 
The Suns bullpen slammed the door on the Biscuits.  James Leverton allowed a single in the eighth, and A.J. Ramos pitched the ninth to earn his second save of the series and 21st of the season.  Ramos has the second-most saves in the Southern League. 
 
The win didn’t come without some late-inning drama.  Omar Luna led off the home half of the ninth with a single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, and took third on a wild pitch by Ramos to increase the tension.  Ramos then retired Kyeong Kang on a fly ball to right field to end the game.  Suns relievers have allowed just nine singles in 18.2 scoreless innings over the last five games.
 
Jacksonville has won the first four games of the series by a combined score of 23-11.  The Suns will look to complete the sweep in the series finale Tuesday night from Riverwalk Stadium, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 PM.  RHP Brian Flynn (2-0, 3.41) will step on the mound for the Suns.  RHP Jake Thomspson (7-10, 5.30) gets the call for the Biscuits.

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Suns Tie For First In South Division

 

The Suns rallied for a come from behind win for the third straight game in Montgomery, defeating the Biscuits 7-3 at Riverwalk Stadium August 26, 2012. With the victory, the Suns pulled into a tie for first place with the Biscuits. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns vaulted into a tie for first place in the South Division of the Southern League, defeating the Montgomery Biscuits 7-3 on Sunday afternoon at Riverwalk Stadium.  The Suns and Biscuits have identical 34-29 records in the second half. 
 
The Suns jumped in front in the second inning against Biscuits starter Kyle Lobstein.  Kyle Jensen led off with a walk, and Danny Pertusati singled to put runners on first and third.  Jose Duarte then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, with Jensen rumbling home to give the Suns a 1-0 lead.  Duarte would finish the day with three RBI.
 
Jacksonville added a run in the fourth inning against Lobstein. Kyle Jensen led off with his 19th double of the season, and advanced to third on a ground out by Kyle Skipworth.  Danny Pertusati then grounded out, with Jensen hustling home for the second time in the game to make the score 2-0 Suns.  Jensen has scored 15 runs in his last 11 games.
 
The Biscuits broke though against Suns starter Graham Taylor in the home half of the fourth inning.  Derek Dietrich doubled and Greg Sexton singled to put runners on first and third.  After Dietrich scored on a wild pitch by Taylor to put the Biscuits on the board, catcher Mayo Acosta belted a two-run home to put Montgomery in front 3-2. 
 
The Suns came back for the third time in the series in the sixth inning.  Zack Cox hit a ball high off the left field wall just missing a home run, but collected his third double in the last two games to start the inning.  Ben Lasater followed with a double to right-center, with Cox racing around from second to tie the score 3-3.  Kyle Jensen singled to put runners on first and third, and Kyle Skipworth followed with a single to drive in Lasater from third and the Suns had reclaimed the lead 4-3.  In a pivotal play in the inning, Danny Pertusati dropped down a sacrifice bunt moving Jensen to third base and Skipworth to second.  Jose Duarte cashed in by delivering with a single up the middle with the infield in, with Jensen and Skipworth scoring for a 6-3 Suns advantage.  On the play Biscuits catcher Mayo Acosta was injured in a home plate collision with Skipworth and was forced to leave the game.
 
Ben Lasater smashed his second home run of the season in the ninth, a solo blast to add to Suns the lead at 7-3.
 
Graham Taylor (9-10) allowed three runs on nine hits over five innings for the win.  Kyle Lobstein (7-7) surrendered six runs on nine hits in the loss.
 
The Suns can take over sole possession of first place with a win in game four of the series on Monday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 PM from Riverwalk Stadium.   RHP Brian Evans (5-8, 4.86) will take the mound for the Suns. 
 

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Suns Stun Biscuits 9-6; One Game Out Of First Place

 

Second baseman Alfredo Lopez drove in four runs in the Suns 9-6 win over the Biscuits at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe 

The Jacksonville Suns scored seven unanswered runs in a 9-6 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Saturday night at Riverwalk Stadium.  The Suns have won the first two games of the five-game series to trim the Biscuits lead in the South Division to just one game.

The Suns dented the scoreboard in the first inning against Biscuits starter Shane Dyer.  Chris Gutierrez singled and scored when Zack Cox doubled to left field to put the Suns up 1-0.  The Suns improved to 49-22 when scoring the first run of the game. 

Montgomery stormed back in the home half of the first against Suns pitcher Matthew Neil.  The first three batters of the inning each singled, with Derek Dietrich driving in Ty Morrison to tie the game at 1-1.  A throwing error by Jose Duarte allowed Shawn O’Malley to score to give the Biscuits the edge 2-1.  Ryan Garko then lifted a sacrifice fly to left, with Dietrich coasting across the plate for a 3-1 Biscuits lead. 

The Suns got one back in the top of the second.  Kyle Jensen led off with a walk, and Jose Duarte singled to put runners on first and third.  Alfredo Lopez delivered with a RBI single, with Jensen scoring to cut the lead to 3-2.  Lopez would finish the night 3-for-3 with four runs batted in.  Suns second basemen have thrived ninth in the batting order in the last two weeks.  The four RBI’s by Lopez are the most by a Suns number nine hitter a game this season.  Dallas Poulk was playing second base and batting ninth when he drove in three runs August 19th against Birmingham. 

The Biscuits scored three more runs on three hits in the bottom of the second off of Neil to take command with a 6-2 lead.  Mikie Mahtook drove in two runs with a double, and Ryan Garko plated another with a sacrifice fly.  Montgomery collected eight hits in the first two innings, then just three singles in the last seven. 

The Suns solved Shane Dyer and pulled even in the third.  Kyle Skipworth drove in two runs in the inning with his 16th double of the season to cut the lead to 6-4.  Kyle Jensen scored on a wild pitch to make the score 6-5, and Alfredo Lopez knocked in a run with a single to even the score 6-6.  

Jacksonville scored three runs in the eighth inning with a two-out rally to take a 9-6 lead.  Lopez drove in two runs with a seeing-eye single up the middle, and Jake Smolinski drove in a run with his 23rd double of the season.  The Suns finished with a season-high 16 hits and tied their season-high for doubles in a game with seven.  Jacksonville had at least one base runner in every inning except the fourth, and every player in the Suns lineup reached base at least once in the game. Paul Gran was the only Suns player without a hit, but he reached base when he was hit by a pitch for a league-leading 18th time this season. 

The Suns had six players record a multi-hit game.  Alfredo Lopez and Jose Duarte each finished with three hits.  Chris Gutierrez, Zack Cox, Kyle Skipworth, and Kyle Jensen each collected two hits in the game.  Lopez drove in four to double his RBI total to eight.  Skipworth drove in a pair of runs and now has 59 RBI’s this season.  Ty Morrison went 3-for-3 and scored two runs for the Biscuits.  Ryan Garko and Mikie Mahtook each drove in a pair of runs for Montgomery. 

The Suns have won six of their last seven games, outscoring opponents 50-33.  Jacksonville improved to 21-14 when using the designated hitter.  After dropping nine of the first 12 games in the season series to the Biscuits, the Suns have won eight straight over their division rival by a combined score of 44-18 with three shutouts.  The Suns are a win away from claiming a series for the first time in three trips to Riverwalk Stadium this season. 

Suns starter Matthew Neil allowed and Biscuits starter Shane Dyer did not figure in the decision.  Neil allowed six earned runs on eight hits in just 1.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season.  Dyer surrendered six runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings of work. 

The Suns bullpen combined to pitch 7.1 scoreless innings.  Edgar Olmos allowed just two singles in 3.1 innings after taking over for Neil in the second inning.  Grant Dayton (2-0) tossed three hitless innings for the Suns in the win.  Chris Rearick (2-1) allowed three runs on five hits over two innings in the loss.  A.J. Ramos pitched the ninth to earn his 20th save of the season.

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Suns Flex Their Muscles In Win Over Biscuits

 

Kyle Jensen hit a grand slam, and the Suns rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Biscuits 6-2 at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery August 24, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Montgomery Biscuits 6-2 on Friday night to claim the first game of a pivotal five-game series at Riverwalk Stadium.  Jacksonville is now just two games behind Montogmery in the South Division.  After dropping nine of the first 12 games of the season against the Biscuits, the Suns have won seven straight in the season series by a combined score of 36-12.
 
The Biscuits dented the scoreboard in the third inning against Suns starter Jose Alvarez.  After Mark Thomas was hit by a pitch and Mikie Mahtook walked, Ryan Garko drove in his 38th run of the season with a single to left field with Thomas scoring to put the Biscuits in front 1-0.  Montgomery had a record of 15-4 at home when scoring the first run of the game.  Jacksonville won for just the 18th time when allowing the first run.
 
Montgomery tacked on another run in the home half of the fourth inning.  Omar Luna led off with a doubled and Michael Sheridan singled, with Luna advancing the third base.  Mark Thomas then lifted a sacrifice fly to center, with Luna crossing the plate to increase the Biscuits lead to 2-0.
 
The Suns managed just a single by Ben Lasater in the first four innings against Biscuits starting pitcher Merrill Kelly.  But once again the Suns used the long ball in the comeback.  Kyle Skipworth led off the fifth inning with a solo home run to cut the lead to 2-1.  Skipworth has 20 home runs this season, with four of them at the expense of the Biscuits pitching staff.
 
Kelly ran into trouble in the sixth inning when Alfredo Lopez was hit by a pitch, Jake Smolinski walked, and Chris Gutierrez singled to load the bases with no outs.  Montgomery made the call to the bullpen and summoned C.J. Reifenhauser, and he was able to entice Zack Cox into a force play, but the Suns still had the bases full.  Ben Lasater then delivered with a sacrifice fly to right field, with Smolinski racing in from third to even the score 2-2.  After a mound visit from Biscuits pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein, the stage was set for the Suns to flex their muscles on the road.  Rieferhauser tried to sneak a fastball past Kyle Jensen, who cleared the bases when he smashed his 23rd home run of the season over the high left field wall to put the Suns up 6-2.  It was the Suns 100th home run of the season.  Kyle Jensen has hit a homer in five straight games, and he joined Kyle Skipworth as the only Suns players with a grad slam this season, with both coming on the road.
 
Kyle Jensen went 2-for-4 for his third straight multi-hit game and 16th of the season.  Jensen is third in the league with 75 RBI, and he’s tied for second with 23 home runs, one behind Joe Dunigan of the Jackson Generals.  Jensen has a dozen hits against the Biscuits this season, five of them have been round trippers.   Kyle Skipworth belted his 2oth home run of the season and scored two runs for the Suns.  He has 10 hits this season against the Biscuits, including three home runs.
 
Ryan Garko led the Biscuits going 3-for-4 with three singles.  Omar Luna, Michael Sheridan, and Mark Thomas each collected two hits for Montgomery in the loss. 
 
Jacksonville improved to 10-9 in the season series against Montgomery, and won for just the fourth time at Riverwalk Stadium in 11 games.  The Suns had been outscored 29-13 during a six game road losing streak.
 
The Suns are 20-14 when using the designated hitter, 10-9 against Montgomery.  The Biscuits have lost five of ther last eight games, and their magic number to claim the second half in the South Division remains at eight. 
 
Jose Alvarez (6-8) tossed 101 pitches allowing two runs on 10 hits in the win, with nine of the hits singles.  Omar Luna’s double was the only extra base hit of the game for the Biscuits.  Alvarez won for just the second time on the road this season (2-5).   He is 2-0 this season in his four starts against Montgomery.  Merrill Kelly (7-3) surrendered four runs on just three hits over five innings of work.  Two of his three losses this season have been to the Suns.
 
Game two of the series is Saturday night with the first pitch slated for 8:05 PM from Riverwalk Stadium.  RHP Matthew Neil (2-7, 4.34) will take the mound for the Suns.   LHP Kyle Lobstein (7-6, 4.02) gets the start for the Biscuits.
 

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Suns Complete Sweep Of Biscuits; Take First Place

 

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.

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Suns Win Fourth Straight Over Biscuits; Tie For Division Lead

Jake Smolinski(above left)and Curt Smith (above right)combined to go 5-for-6 with five RBI’s and five runs scored in the Suns 11-7 win over the Montgomery Biscuits August 6, 2012 at the Baseball Grounds. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

 
The Jacksonville Suns moved into a tie for first place in the South Division of the Southern League, collecting a season-high 15 hits in an 11-7 win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Monday night at the Baseball Grounds.  The Suns began the five game series trailing the Biscuits by four games in the standings. 
 
The Biscuits took the lead in the top of the third inning against Suns starter Brian Flynn.  Mark Thomas legged out an infield single to start the inning and went to second on a pass ball.  With one out, Hak-Ju Lee singled to left field with Thomas scoring from second to put Montgomery in front 1-0.  The Biscuits scored the first run for the second straight game, with Lee providing the RBI both times.  After a single by Ty Morrison put runners on first and third, Mikie Mahtook plated Lee from third with a ground out and the Biscuits were up 2-0. 
 
The Suns evened the score 2-2 in the home half of the third against Biscuits starter Matt Buschmann.  Donnie Webb walked to set up Jake Smolinski, who hit a two-run home run to left-center.  Smolinski entered the season with seven career home runs.  He has hit all five of his homers this season in the last 44 games. 
 
The two teams traded runs in the fourth inning.  Michael Sheridan drove in a run with a RBI double for the Biscuits in the top half of the inning, and Curt Smith countered with a solo home run for the Suns in the home half.  Smith has hit nine home runs this season, with two of them in his last three games in the starting lineup.  The Suns have belted at least two home runs in five of the last nine games, and now have a total of 82 round trippers on the season.
 
Jacksonville batted around in the fifth, scoring five times on four hits to break the game open.  Chris Gutierrez and Zach Cox each drove in a run with a single to give the Suns a 5-3 lead.  Curt Smith plated two more runs with a double, with both Gutierrez and Cox crossing the plate to increase the advantage to 7-3.  An error by third baseman Greg Sexton on a ground ball by Paul Gran then allowed Smith to score for an 8-3 Suns edge.
 
In the sixth inning, after singles by Jake Jefferies and Jake Smolinski, Zach Cox hit a fly ball with left fielder Shawn O’Malley unable to make the catch by the foul line,  going head-over-heels onto the lawn in foul ground, with the ball falling to the ground.  The triple drove in both Smolinski and Jefferies to give the Suns a comfortable 10-3 lead.
 
The Suns and Biscuits again traded runs in the seventh inning.  After the Biscuits loaded the bases on three straight singles against Suns reliever Rett Varner, Ty Morrison drove in his 32nd run of the season for Montgomery with a ground out to cut the lead to 10-4.  Donnie Webb got the run back for the Suns with a double in the home half of the inning, with Paul Gran scoring to make it 11-4 Jacksonville.
 
With Jordan Conley on in relief, the Biscuits made it interesting in the eighth.  Greg Sexton hit a solo home run and Derek Dietrich smashed a two-run home run to cut the Suns lead to 11-7.  After a double by Mark Thomas, left fielder Shawn O’Malley hit a ball deep to right field, with Suns right fielder Danny Pertusati leaping up at the wall to commit highway robbery and deny O’Malley the home run.  A.J. Ramos entered the game to record the final out of the eighth inning, and also pitched the ninth.
 
The Suns and Biscuits combined for 29 hits in the game.  17 of the 18 hitters  in the game with the exception of Suns catcher Kyle Skipworth (0-for-5) had at least one hit.  The top four batters in the Suns lineup combined to finish 8-for-16 with nine RBI’s and seven runs scored.  Eight players in the lineup had at least one of the Suns season-high 15 hits.  Curt Smith went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s.  Jake Smolinski, Chris Gutierrez, Paul Gran, and Jake Jefferies each had two hits.  In his Suns debut, Zach Cox was 2-for-5 with a triple, three RBI’s, and a run scored.  Every player in the Biscuits lineup had at least one hit.  Mark Thomas, Greg Sexton, Omar Luna, and Michael Sheridan each had a multi-hit game for the Biscuits.  Jacksonville has outscored Montgomery 21-8 in the series.
 
Brian Flynn (2-0) allowed three runs on six hits to win his second straight start.  Flynn, a 6-8 left hander, was acquired by the Marlins from the Tigers just before the trade deadline last week.  Matt Buschmann (5-7) surrendered eight runs on eight hits in the loss.  He shutout the Suns 1-0 on May 11th, allowing just one hit over six innings.
 
The Suns have won seven straight games at the Baseball grounds, outscoring opponents 41-21.  It’s the longest home winning streak for the Suns since May 2-14, 2010, when they also won seven in a row.
 
The Suns look to take sole possession of first place with a win on Tuesday.  Jacksonville hasn’t been alone at the top of the division since May 4th in the first half of the season.  The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.  LHP Jose Alvarez (4-6, 3.74) takes the mound for the Suns.  RHP Nick Barnese (2-0, 4.30) will try to avoid the sweep for the Biscuits. 

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Suns Win Third Straight Over Biscuits; One Game Out

Bryan Evans(above)was sharp in the Suns 7-1 win over the Montgomery Biscuits. He allowed just one run, and tied his season high with eight strikeouts. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

 By Steve Kolbe

The Suns won for the sixth straight time at the Baseball Grounds, pulling to within one game of first place in the South Division, with a 7-1 win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Sunday night.  The Suns began the series four games off the pace in the division.  
 
The Biscuits snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak when Hak-Ju Lee hit a home run off of Suns starter Bryan Evans on the first pitch of the game.  It’s the only run of the series for Montgomery, with the Suns outscoring the Biscuits 10-1 in the first three games.  The Biscuits have been held to 14 hits, with only two for extra bases.
 
The Suns took the lead in the home half of the first off of Biscuits starter Jake Thompson.  Jake Smolinski led off with a double, and went to third on a single by Chris Gutierrez.  Paul Gran then drove in the first run of the night with a sacrifice fly, with Smolinski coasting home to tie the game 1-1.  After Kyle Skipworth reached on an error by first baseman Michael Sheridan, Curt Smith drove in Gutierrez with a RBI single to put the Suns in front to stay 2-1. 
 
In the second inning, Gutierrez walked with two outs and scored all the way from first on Paul Gran’s fourth triple of the season to straight-away center field to make the score 3-1.  Jacksonville has outscored opponents 118-78 in the first two innings this season.
 
The first four batters for the Suns reached base in the fifth with Jacksonville adding to the lead.  The big hit came off the bat of Kyle Skipworth, who homered to right-center field for the second straight night for his 16th round tripper of the season to make the score 4-1.  Skipworth has hit nine of the Suns last 18 homers.  Taylor Krick drove in a run with a groundout, and Donnie Webb plated a run with a sacrifice fly and the Suns were up 6-1.
 
Jacksonville tacked on one more in the eighth inning.  With runners on first and third, Gutierrez drove a run with a ground out to put the Suns up 7-1.  The Suns improved to 14-13 against the South Division in the second half with the win.
 
Eight of the nine Suns hitters in the game either drove in or scored at least one run.  Chris Gutierrez went 1-for-4 to extend his hit streak to six games and scored twice.  Jake Smolinski finished 2-for-4 for his 20th multi-hit game of the season.
 
The Suns have won eight of their last 11 games, and allowed three runs or fewer eight times.  Jacksonville pitchers have given up just two runs and 19 hits over the last four games.  On the 19 hits, only three have been for extra bases (one HR, two doubles).
 
Bryan Evans (4-6) allowed one run on three hits in 5.1 innings of work for the win.  He tied his season-high with eight strikeouts.  Evans is now 2-3 at the Baseball Grounds.  Jake Thompson (7-10) surrendered six runs on seven hits and lost his fourth straight game. 
 
The Suns can tie the Biscuits for first place with a win Monday night.  Jacksonville hasn’t won four games in a row since April, and the Biscuits haven’t lost four straight since April.
 
 The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from the Baseball Grounds.  LHP Brian Flynn (1-0, 3.86) will start his third game for the Suns.  RHP Matt Buschmann (5-6, 4.00) gets the call for the Biscuits.
 
 
 

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Filed under Ahead Of The Curve, Southern League News

Suns Two-Hit Biscuits For Second Straight Shutout

By Steve Kolbe
 
In a game that was delayed twice by rain for a total of 3 hours and 21 minutes, four Jacksonville pitchers combined on a two-hitter in the Suns 1-0 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Saturday night.  The Suns have limited the second-best hitting team in the Southern League to just nine hits in the series, with just one for extra bases.  The Suns have now tossed a pair of two-hitters this season.
 
A day after Graham Taylor and A.J. Ramos combined to blank Montgomery, Matthew Neil and three relievers combined for the Suns 10th shutout of the season.  Eight of the Suns shutouts this season have been at the Baseball Grounds, and eight different Suns pitchers have a shutout win.
 
  The Suns have won five straight home games for the first time this season, and have outscored opponents 23-13 along the way.  Overall, Jacksonville is 14-7 in the last 21 games.  After having just five wins all season when scoring less than three runs in a game (5-37), the Suns have won two straight when being held to under three runs.
 
After the second rain delay of the night, Kyle Skipworth provided the only run of the game in the bottom of the second when he smashed his 15th home run of the season off of Biscuits reliever Marquis Fleming.
Skipworth has hit eight homers and 12 RBI’s in his last 16 games.   Skipworth has surpassed his total from the 2011 campaign, when he finished with 11 round trippers in 106 games. 
 
The Suns have scored the first run of the game in eight of their last nine contests, and have a record of 43-18 when crossing the plate first.  The Suns improved to 20-14 in games played on Saturday and Sunday.
 
Suns starter Matthew Neil didn’t allow a hit in his two innings of work, but wouldn’t return after the second rain delay.  James Leverton (3-0) took over and allowed just two hits and struck out five over four innings for the win.  In his last four appearances, Leverton has two wins and a save.  Edgar Olmos tossed two innings of hitless baseball in his first appearance with the Suns since he started a game April 15th.  Arquimedes Caminero was overpowering in the ninth, retiring all three batters he faced on pop ups, to earn his first save with the Suns.
 
Montgomery had been shutout only twice all season entering the series, and hadn’t suffered a shutout loss in 57 games before arriving in Jacksonville.   After not recording a shutout in a span of 38 games, Jacksonville has two straight for the second time this season (June 10th with 7-0 and 9-0 wins over the Jackson Generals).  Eight different Suns pitchers have earned a win in a Jacksonville shutout this season.
 
The Suns had just three hits in the game.  In addition to the Skipworth’s home run, Alfredo Lopez had a single, and Chris Gutierrez extended his hit streak to six games with a single in the first inning.  He has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games.  Catcher Mark Thomas had both hits for the Biscuits, the rest of the team went 0-for-25 on the night.
 
The home stand continues Sunday night with game three of the series from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 PM.  RHP Bryan Evans (3-6, 4.05) will start his 22nd game of the season for the Suns.  RHP Jacob Thompson (7-9, 5.20) takes the hill for the Biscuits.

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Graham Taylor Shines In Shutout Over Biscuits

 

Graham Taylor earned his third shutout of the season, allowing seven singles over eight innings in the Suns 2-0 win over the Biscuits at the Baseball Grounds August 3, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

 By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns returned home with the stage set for a show down with first place Montgomery, and Graham Taylor delivered a dominating performance leading the Suns to a 2-0 win over the Biscuits Friday night at the Baseball Grounds.  With the Suns claiming the first game of the five game series, the Biscuits lead in the South Division has been cut to three games.
 
The Suns scored all the runs that Taylor would need in the home half of the fourth inning against Biscuits starter Merrill Kelly.  With one out, Kyle Skipworth walked to start the rally and designated hitter Kyle Jensen singled to put runners on first and third.  Shawn Bowman drove in the first run of the game with a single to left center, with Skipworth racing home to put the Suns on top 1-0.  It was Bowman’s 45th RBI of the season, and his first since July 19th.  Ben Lasater then collected the Suns third straight single in the inning, with Jensen scoring for a 2-0 lead.  Lasater has driven in three runs in his last three games.  The Suns have scored the first run of the game in seven of the last eight, and are 42-18 when they cross the plate first.
 
By blanking the Biscuits for the first time in 2012, Jacksonville now has nine shutouts this season.  Montgomery was shutout for the first time since May 28th, a span of 57 games.  It’s just the third time this season that the Biscuits have been kept off the scoreboard, with the Mississippi Braves doing the honors the previous two times (April 13th 4-0 and May 28th 6-0).
 
The Suns have won four straight at the Baseball Grounds, outscoring their opponents 22-13.  Overall, the Suns improved to 13-7 in their last 20 games. 
 
Chris Gutierrez went 2-for-3, and now has at least one hit in five straight games and nine of his last 11.  Omar Luna led all hitters going 3-for-4 with three singles.  Mike Mahtook also collected two hits for the Biscuits to increase his hitting streak to eight games.  Montgomery shortstop Hak-Ju Lee singled to extend his on-base streak to 46 games dating back to June 11th.  Suns catcher Kyle Skipworth threw out both would-be base stealers on the night, including Hak-Ju Lee, who entered the game with 37 stolen bases and had been caught only eight times.
 
For the second straight night, the Suns starting pitcher went eight innings.  On Thursday, Jose Alvarez pitched a complete game in a 1-0 loss at Mobile.  On Friday, Graham Taylor (7-8) threw 101 pitches and scattered seven singles in the win.  In his last four starts, Taylor has allowed just three runs over 27 innings of work, and he has won his last three decisions.  Biscuits starter Merrill Kelly (6-2) allowed two runs on five hits in the loss.  He is 6-0 as a reliever, and 0-2 as a starter this season.
 
Closer A.J. Ramos entered the game to pitch the ninth, and surrendered a leadoff single to Omar Luna.  Ramos then struck out both Derek Dietrich and pinch hitter Kyeong Kang, and enticed Brett Nommensen to ground out to second to end the game.  Ramos is tied for second in the Southern League with 16 saves.
 
The Suns will look to make it two in a row over the Biscuits on Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 PM from the Baseball Grounds.  RHP Matthew Neil (1-6, 5.08) takes the mound for the Suns.  He has lost his last six decisions.  LHP Kyle Lobstein (6-6, 4.03) will start his 22nd game of the season for Montgomery.
 

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Filed under Ahead Of The Curve, Southern League News