By Steve Kolbe
Tag Archives: Tim Smith
The Jacksonville Suns (15-15) reached the .500 mark for the first time since the eighth game of the second half, slipping past the Mississippi Braves 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at the Baseball Grounds.
Before many were in their seats on the sunny afternoon, Braves leadoff hitter Todd Cunningham hit his first home run of the season off of Suns starter Graham Taylor to give Mississippi the early 1-0 edge. It was the lone mistake that Taylor made in the game. The first three Braves batters of the afternoon each reached base, but Taylor settled down and allowed just four total base runners (three singles and a walk) over his last six innings of work. The Braves have hit just 31 home runs on the season, fewest in the Southern League, but blasted four in the series against the Suns.
In a game dominated by the starters, the Suns had trouble solving Braves right hander Zeke Spruill, with just two singles over the first four innings. In the fifth, Curt Smith and Danny Pertusati each singled to start the inning. After Graham Taylor grounded into a force at third, Jake Smolinski singled to left field with Pertusati scoring from second base to tie the score 1-1. After going hitless in the Suns four game series against the Blue Wahoos, Smolinski collected at least one hit in his three games against the Braves.
In the Suns eighth inning, it was all about the sacrifice. Two days after driving in all five of the Suns runs, Donnie Webb once again found himself in the center of the offense. He led off the eighth with a double, when Braves left fielder Tim Smith made a diving attempt on the ball only to come up empty handed. Jake Smolinski gave himself up when he dropped down a sacrifice bunt, with Webb hustling to third base. Chris Gutierrez continued the unselfish play with a sacrifice fly to left, with Webb coasting home to give the Suns a 2-1 lead and the win. For Gutierrez, it was his first RBI of the season against Mississippi.
Graham Taylor allowed one run on five hits over his seven innings of work in the no-decision. In his last three outings, the lefty has surrendered only two runs in 18 innings. Josh Schmidt (5-3) pitched the eighth inning on Sunday to win for the second time in his last three appearances. He also tossed an inning last week in a victory at Pensacola. Suns closer A.J. Ramos entered the game in the ninth and gave up a single and a walk, but he struck out Cunningham to end the game and earn his 13th save of the season. Ramos rebounded from a tough loss in game two of the series, when he was nicked for five runs in the ninth in the Braves 8-5 comeback win.
Braves starter Zeke Spruill (6-10) pitched a complete game in the loss. He allowed two runs on seven hits, and the only extra base hit he allowed was an eighth inning double to Donnie Webb.
Jeff Dominguez and Danny Pertusati each finished with two singles for the Suns. Chris Gutierrez saw his 15-game hitting come to an end, but he drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly for his 30th RBI of the season. Gutierrez batted .340 (19-for-58) during the streak.
The Suns have won seven of their last nine games, with five of the victories by a single run. Jacksonville claimed the season series over Mississippi by winning five of the nine meetings. The Suns have won back-to-back series for the first time since early June. The Braves have dropped eight of their last 10 games, and currently reside in the basement of the South Division.
The Suns begin a five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies on Tuesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.. RHP Matthew Neil (1-5, 5.59) is expected to take the mound for the Suns. Jacksonville has taken both previous series from Tennessee this season, winning five of the eight games.
By Steve Kolbe
The series finale between the Jacksonville Suns and Mississippi Braves was the last game completed in the first half of the season in the Southern League, with the Braves blanking the Suns 5-0 Sunday night at Trustmark Park. The Suns finished the first half of the season in fourth place in the South Division with a record of 33-37 (14-21 at home; 19-16 on the road).
The Suns have now been held off the scoreboard seven times this season, and were shutout for the third time in the last nine games. On the season, Jacksonville has come up empty five times at the Baseball Grounds, and twice on the road.
The Braves took the lead for good in the third inning against Suns starter Matthew Neil, scoring two runs on three hits. Keenan Wiley led off the inning with a line drive single that hit Neil in the knee. After moving to second base on a ground out, Wiley swiped third for his 10th stolen base of the season. Joe Leonard then singled to right field, with Wiley crossing the plate to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Joe Terdoslavich doubled off the wall in left field, with Leonard rumbling all the way around from first to make the score 2-0 Mississippi.
The Braves added another run in there fourth inning. Jason Christian scratched out an infield single and went to second on a wild pitch by Neil. After Neil retired the next two batters, Keenan Wiley delivered a two out single to left, with Christian scoring to increase the Braves lead to 3-0.
In the fifth inning, Joe Leonard led off with a double to left against Suns reliever Bobby Bramhall, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Terdoslavich to put the Braves up by a comfortable 4-0 margin.
Mississippi tacked on another run in the seventh against Bramhall with a two out rally. Joe Leonard drew a walk, and quickly stole second base. Tim Smith then cashed in with a single up the middle, with Leonard coasting home to make it 5-0. The Braves finished the first half in last place in the South Division with a record of 30-40. Mississippi won a series for just the second time this season at home, taking three of the five games from Jacksonville.
For the Suns, Chris Gutierrez increased his hit streak to 16 games with a single in the first inning. He is batting .350 (21-for-60) during his streak with 14 singles, six doubles, and a home run. The 16-game streak is tied for the longest in the Southern League this season. Pensacola’s Henry Rodriguez had a 16 game streak earlier in the first half. The longest hitting streak in Southern League history is 33 games, set in 1987 by Greg Tubbs of Greenville.
The Suns finished the game with six hit, with Jake Smolinski’s seventh inning double the only hit for extra bases. For the Braves Joe Leonard finished 2-for-3, drove in a run and scored three of the five runs. Joe Terdoslavich and Jason Christian each had two hits for the Braves.
Matthew Neil (1-2) pitched three and two-thirds innings and lost his second straight start. He left the game after being hit for a third time by a ball hit back up the middle. Neil allowed three runs on six hits and walked two batters. Sean Gilmartin (5-6) tossed six innings and allowed just three hits in the win.
With the loss, the Suns missed a chance to join Mobile and Montgomery as the only teams in the league with 20 road wins in the first half. Jacksonville finished 19-16 on the road, with nine of the 19 victories by one run.
The Suns begin the second half of the season against the Tennessee Smokies at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville beginning Thursday June 21st, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
By Steve Kolbe
The Suns scored twice in a ninth inning rally, but fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Mississippi Braves Saturday night at Trustmark Park.
The game was scoreless through the first six innings with Suns starter Graham Taylor allowing just two hits, and Braves starter David Hale surrendering only three singles. Jacksonville scored the first run of night in the seventh inning, when right fielder Kyle Jensen led off by hitting his eighth home run of the season to give the Suns a 1-0 edge.
Taylor ran into trouble in the Braves half of the seventh. With one out, Joe Terdoslavich walked and Christian Bethancourt and Keenan Wiley both singled to load the bases. The Suns left Taylor on the mound to face pinch hitter Ian Gac, who hit a hard grounder that glanced off the glove of third baseman Shawn Bowman and deflected into left field, with Terdoslavich and Bethancourt scoring to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
Mississippi scored two more insurance runs in the eighth inning against reliever Evan Reed. Todd Cunningham singled to right and stole second base. Tim Smith then singled to left, driving in Cunningham to increase the lead to 3-1. Pinch runner Alden Carrithers stole second base, and he scored when Joe Terdoslavich doubled to the left field wall for a 4-1 Braves advantage.
The Suns rallied in the ninth inning against Braves closer Mark Lamm, scoring two runs on three hits. Kyle Jensen and Kyle Skipworth singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Curt Smith then drove in Jensen with a single to cut the lead to 4-2. Paul Gran’s sacrifice fly to right field plated Skipworth to make the score 4-3, but Lamm stuck out Jose Duarte to end the threat.
Suns shortstop Chris Gutierrez finished 2-for-4 with two singles and extended his hit streak to 15 games. He is batting .360 (20-for-56) during the streak. Not to be out done, Braves center fielder Todd Cunningham singled in his last at bat to extend his hit streak to 15 games. The longest hitting streak in the Southern League this season is a 16-game streak by Pensacola’s Henry Rodriguez.
Kyle Jensen and Curt Smith also finished with two hits for Jacksonville. Jensen hit his first home run in the month of June. Christian Bethancourt, Joe Terdoslavich, and Keenan Wiley had two hits each for Mississippi.
Suns manager Andy Barkett was ejected in the middle of the fourth inning. Curt Smith appeared to have stolen second base, when the throw from Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt got away from Phil Gosselin covering the bag. Smith was called out, and Barkett was then thrown out by third base umpire Matt McCoy when he argued the call. Barkett has been tossed out three times this season, and twice by the same umpiring crew.
Graham Taylor (4-6) pitched six and two-thirds innings, and had a two-hitter going into the seventh. He allowed two runs on six hits and stuck out four. David Hale (5-3) tossed seven innings, allowing four singles and the solo home run to Jensen. Hale entered the night having walked the fifth-most batters in the league, but on Saturday he didn’t issue a free pass. Mark Lamm wiggled his way out of the ninth inning jam to earn his eighth save of the season.
The Suns have scored the first run in all four games of the series, but have lost twice. Jacksonville is 27-7 this season when crossing the plate first. The Suns are 19-15 on the road this season, and are one of just three teams that can finish the first half with 20 or more road victories.
The series finale is Sunday from Trustmark Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST. RHP Matthew Neil (1-1, 4.67) will start his 6th game of the season for the Suns. LHP Sean Gilmartin (4-6, 3.40) takes the hill for his 14th start of the year for the Braves. Three of Gillmartin’s wins have been complete games, most in the Southern League.