JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (team release) -- A pair of home runs by shortstop Junior Lake powered the Tennessee Smokies (15-17, 50-52) to their third straight win, 7-5, over the Jacksonville Suns on Wednesday afternoon in game two of a five-game series at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Lake, who finished 2-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs, also went deep in last night’s series opener, giving him three homers over the past two games. First baseman Justin Bour went 3-for-4 with an RBI in the victory.
Jacksonville starter Bryan Evans struggled mightily with his command in the top of the first, walking the bases loaded before recording an out after 12 of his first 14 pitches missed the strike zone. The Smokies opened the scoring when cleanup hitter Justin Bour, who narrowly missed a grand slam two pitches earlier, lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Junior Lake with the game’s first run. Evans avoided disaster by retiring the next two batters to end the threat and limit Tennessee to just one run.
The Smokies extended their lead to 3-0 in the top of the second when Lake homered for the second time in as many days, lifting a two-run blast to left. The Suns countered in the bottom of the frame, though, plating a pair of unearned runs thanks to a pair of Tennessee errors to pull within one, 3-2. Tennessee again loaded the bases with no outs in the third, but Evans fanned the next two batters and reliever Bobby Bramhall struck out Nelson Perez to hold the Smokies off the scoreboard.
Jacksonville tied it in the fifth on a pinch-hit double by Jose Duarte and took the lead later in the inning on an RBI ground out off the bat of Chris Gutierrez. However, Lake’s second two-run homer of the contest would give Tennessee a 5-4 edge in the sixth inning. Nelson Perez tacked on some insurance with a two-run blast in the top of the ninth, making it 7-4 in favor of the Smokies.
With Frank Batista on the mound in the ninth trying to complete a two-inning save, Curt Smith doubled and scored on an RBI ground out to make it a 7-5 contest, but the Suns would get no closer as Batista nailed down his league-leading 18th save of the season.
Dae-Eun Rhee (7-5) earned the win, scattering nine hits over five frames while allowing four runs (three earned). Trey McNutt followed with two hitless, scoreless innings in relief.
Evans labored through control issues, walking six batters over 2.2 innings, but the Jacksonville starter did not factor in the decision after surrendering three runs. Jordan Conley (1-2) suffered the loss after serving up the go-ahead homer to Lake in the Sixth.
The Smokies and Suns play the middle contest of their five-game series on Thursday night at 7:35 p.m. when Tennessee sends right-hander Dallas Beeler (4-6, 4.11 ERA) to the mound. Jacksonville will counter with southpaw Brian Flynn, who will make his Southern League debut after being acquired by the Miami Marlins earlier this week in the trade sent infielder Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers. The 6-foot-8 Flynn has spent the bulk of 2012 with the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the High-A Florida State League, going 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 18 starts.
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