JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (release) -- The Jacksonville Suns (26-16, 60-49) extended their winning streak to 10 games Sunday evening, defeating the Tennessee Smokies (24-18, 58-53) 10-4. With the victory, Jacksonville claimed the season series against Tennessee and used a six-run first inning to extend their longest winning streak this season.
Smokies starter A.J. Morris ran into trouble against a hot-hitting Suns lineup in the bottom of the first inning. After giving up a one-out single and a walk to put runners at first and second, Zack Cox laced a single to left field in the ensuing at-bat, scoring Danny Black and putting Jacksonville on top 1-0.
With the bases loaded two batters later, Daniel Pertusati drove a 1-0 pitch to deep right center field where Smokies’ center fielder Brett Jackson appeared to catch the fly ball but was ruled a trap, allowing all three runs to score and pushing the Suns’ lead to 4-0. Shortstop Chris Gutierrez drove Pertusati home in the next at-bat with his second home run of the season, a two-run shot over the left field wall to give Jacksonville a six-run first inning.
Morris’ day was done with one out in the second inning when the right-hander gave up a soft line drive to Cox, allowing another Suns’ run to cross home and extend the Jacksonville lead to 7-0. Morris was credited with all seven runs, tossing 44 pitches – 24 strikes - in an inning and a third while walking two batters and striking out none.
Tennessee put a run into the scoring column in the top of the third inning when Jacksonville resident Javier Baez took a 3-1 pitch off the right field wall, scoring P.J. Francescon from third and Jackson from first to cut the Suns’ lead to 7-2.
Francescon - on in relief of Morris – escaped the second inning without giving up a run and worked a scoreless frame in the third, but fell apart in the fourth inning. After allowing a one-out single, Francescon gave back-to-back free passes to load the bases for J.T. Realmuto. The Suns’ catcher smacked his 20th double of the season to the warning track in right field, emptying the sacks for a 10-2 Jacksonville lead.
The Smokies chipped away at the lead in the top of the fifth inning by posting a two-run frame. After three singles loaded the bags with one out, Justin Bour brought in his 43rd RBI of the season on a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Nate Samson. Christian Villanueva roped a RBI-single to third base, slicing the Suns’ edge to 10-4.
Morris took the loss, going to 3-2 on the season and bumping his ERA to 5.25. Bryan Evans (4-3, 3.88) earned the win for Jacksonville, allowing four runs – two earned – in five innings pitched while striking out seven batters and walking two.
Matt Loosen will look to end the Jacksonville winning streak Monday evening as he makes his second start for Tennessee since being promoted from High-A Daytona. Justin Nicolino toes the rubber for the Suns seeking to improve on his 6.43 ERA and 1-2 record. First pitch from Bragan Field is 7:05 p.m. EST.