JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Suns used the combination of dominant pitching by Jose Alvarez, and power at the plate, to blank the Tennessee Smokies 2-0 Friday night at the Baseball Grounds.
The Suns jumped out to an early lead in the first inning against Smokies starter Dae-Eun Rhee. On the second pitch that he saw, Suns leadoff man Donnie Webb hit his fourth home run of the season to give Jacksonville a 1-0 lead. Webb's blast landed in the last row of seats in the right field, and nearly cleared the stands. It was the second straight night that the Suns have hit a home run in the first inning. Webb has now smashed three home runs in his last 11 games in the starting lineup.
Chris Gutierrez added to the Suns lead in the fifth inning when he hit a solo home run to left field to increase the lead to 2-0. And that lead was more than enough for Suns starter Jose Alvarez. The last time that Alvarez pitched at the Baseball Grounds on June 8th, he tossed a season-high eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits. The Suns were shutout on that night 1-0 by Danny Hultzen and the Jackson Generals.
Alvarez was rewarded for his efforts on Friday against Tennessee, winning for the first time since May 1st and improving to 2-4 on the season. He allowed just two singles over eight innings and struck out five. From the fourth inning to the eighth inning, Alvarez retired 14 straight batters. In his last three starts at the Baseball Grounds, Alvarez has surrendered only three runs on 10 hits in 21 innings of work. With Alvarez at the 99 pitch mark, the Suns brought in A.J. Ramos for the ninth inning, and he earned his fifth save of the season.
The Suns improved to 27-8 when scoring the first run of the game. This season, Jacksonville has scored at least one run in the first inning 20 times with a record of 16-4 when they cross the plate in the first.
Game three of the series in Saturday night at the Baseball Grounds with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. For the Suns, RHP Bryan Evans (2-4, 2.90) will start his 14th game of the season. Evans is third in the Southern League with a 2.90 ERA. For the Smokies, RHP Dallas Beeler (2-5, 4.32) gets the nod for his 15th start of the season.