Suns Beat Braves 5-3 in Crucial Third Game of Series

Game Recap

by Matt Leland / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns (38-29, 72-62) rallied from a three-run deficit to earn a critical 5-3 victory over the Mississippi Braves (37-30, 75-62), inching closer to a Southern League Division title in the process.

After Mississippi plated the game’s first three runs against Suns starter Adam Conley, Jacksonville proceeded to score the next five over the course of the ensuing six five innings, emerging with the team’s most important win of the season.

“The bullpen was outstanding and we got some big hits,” said Suns manager Andy Barkett. “Every day is a must-win for us at this point.”

Conley managed to work through five innings allowing two earned runs and gave Jacksonville time to regroup and knot the score. J.T. Realmuto’s booming triple to center field in the fourth inning got the Suns on the board, and a passed ball that allowed Realmuto to come across himself made it a 3-2 game.

Jacksonville tied the game against Braves starter Aaron Northcraft the very next inning. Brent Keys singled with one out and stole second base to put a runner in scoring position. With two outs, Austin Barnes lined a game-tying single into center field.

The score was still deadlocked at three in the seventh, when Barnes against came to the plate with a runner in scoring position. The second baseman promptly drilled a ball into the right center field gap, tripling home Taylor Krick and putting Jacksonville in front 4-3.

Isaac Galloway added an insurance run with an RBI single the eighth inning before Michael Brady retired the Braves in the ninth for his 23rd save.

Collin Cargill (4-1) earned his fourth win with a scoreless seventh inning for Jacksonville.

Bryan Evans (6-5, 3.68) will take the ball for Jacksonville in game four of the five game series on Sunday, facing off against Braves right-hander Gus Schlosser (7-5, 2.44). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Suns fans can listen to Sunday’s game on the Suns Baseball Network, 94.1 WSOS-FM or through jaxsuns.com, MiLB.com or the Suns iPhone or Android app, beginning at 6:35 p.m. ET with Suns Sunday on the UF Health Suns Pre-Game Show.

Listen as Suns face Braves in game 3

Game Preview

Lefty Adam Conley is expected to take the hill for the Suns against Mississippi.

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

Entering tonight trailing the Mobile BayBears by half a game, the Jacksonville Suns look to regain their place at the top as they take on the Mississippi Braves tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Bragan Field.

Tonight gives fans a chance to break out their Halloween costumes and wear them again at the ballpark for Halloween Two Months Early. All fans dressed in their best costumes will be entered in a Suns Halloween costume contest for various prizes. Fans should also be wary of Zombies, as they will be trying to take over the park.

The first 3,000 fans through the gates will also receive a special Suns replica orange and black cap, while it’s also a Steak Me Out To The Ballgame Night at the Baseball Grounds. For only $25.00, you can get a tender eight ounce bacon-wrapped filet mignon, baked potato, sald and non-alcoholic beverage in the Sundowner Lounge, as well as a General Admission ticket. The Bloodmobile will also be at Bragan Field and the Suns encourage all fans to donate blood. The first 25 donors receive two tickets to the game, along with a hot dog and soda voucher and a special Suns gift.

The Suns dropped out of first place last night with their loss to the Braves coupled with the Mobile BayBears’ win over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos last night at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Jacksonville and Mississippi are now a half game back of the BayBears with just three games remaining in regular season play.

Left-hander Adam Conley (11-7, 3.23 ERA) is expected to take the mound for the Suns in search of his 12th win of the year. The southpaw suffered the defeat in his most recent outing on August 25 at Montgomery despite yielding just two earned runs on three hits in 7.2 innings pitched. In his lone outing against the Braves on May 21 at Mississippi, the Washington native earned the win after allowing two earned runs on five hits in six frames of work.

Slated to oppose Conley this evening for the M-Braves in the third game of the series is right-hander Aaron Northcraft (8-8, 3.40 ERA). Northcraft last pitched on August 25 versus Huntsville after relinquishing just three hits while striking out seven in 5.1 innings thrown against the Stars. The 23-year-old faced Jacksonville on May 21 at Trustmark Park and suffered the loss after allowing five earned runs on seven hits in five frames.

Fans can listen to the game on the Suns Baseball Network, with the “Voice of the Suns” Roger Hoover entering his second season as Jacksonville’s Director of Broadcasting. Hoover is assisted by Matt Leland and Andrew Green. Leland and Green will host the UF Health Suns Pregame Show beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.

Below are more notes on tonight’s game, direct from the official Suns game notes compiled by Roger Hoover. The entire game notes for tonight’s contest can be viewed by clicking here.

Brady Named Southern League Post-Season All-Star: The Southern League announced Friday that Suns closer Michael Brady was named to the league’s Post-Season All-Star Team as the circuit’s top relief pitcher. Brady leads the league with 22 saves in 24 opportunities, which ranks three ahead of Montgomery Biscuits right-hander Juan Sandoval’s second place mark of 19. In save situations this year, Brady has accumulated a 0.35 ERA, allowing a lone earned run in 26.0 innings of work in those 24 chances, in addition to recording a 0.73 WHIP. Opposing hitters have also managed just a .185 batting average (17-92) against the 26-year-old in those situations. Overall this season, the California native has posted a 2-2 record and 1.59 ERA (9 ER in 51.0 IP) in 47 appearances for the Suns and has finished a league-high 43 contests, while his 47 outings rank him tied for fourth among all Southern Leaguers.

Half Game Back With Three To Play: Jacksonville’s loss last night, combined with the Mobile BayBears’ victory over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Hank Aaron Stadium, means Mobile now leads the South Division second half standings by a half game over the Suns and Braves. If the season were to end with the standings the way they look now, Mississippi would clinch the South Division’s second playoff spot, essentially the Wild Card, since they own a 2.5 game advantage over the Suns in terms of overall record. With Mobile winning the first half, league rules state that should a team win both halves, the team with the next best overall record would make it to the Southern League Postseason. Since 2005, when the Eastern and Western Divisions were realigned into North and South Divisions, the Wild Card has been used three times, including in both divisions in 2010. The Tennessee Smokies and Jacksonville Suns both won each half of their respective divisions that season, with the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx and Mobile BayBears moving on to the postseason. The Smokies also reached the postseason with the Wild Card in 2007 when the Huntsville Stars won both halves of the North Division.

You Never Forget Your First: C/INF Austin Barnes launched his first homer of his Double-A career in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Mississippi Braves. Prior to joining the Suns on August 6, Barnes blasted four longballs with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads, with his last one coming in his final game in a Hammerheads uniform on August 5 versus the Lakeland Flying Tigers. The 23-year-old’s single-season career-high for homers in a season is 12, which he achieved last season with the Single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. In addition, last night marked the first time Barnes started at second base since September 3, 2012 with the Grasshoppers. In 16 games this year for the Suns, the California native has posted a .333 average with a homer and four RBI.

Let’s Make It A Dozen?: Tonight’s Suns starter Adam Conley looks to become the Southern League’s second 12-game winner this season, and would join Mobile RHP Archie Bradley in that category with a victory tonight. The southpaw is currently tied with five other hurlers for second in the league with 11 wins in 2013. That 12th win would mark the first time since 2010 a Suns pitcher has earned that many victories ina season, when both former Suns right-handers Tom Koehler (16-2) and Elih Villanueva (14-4) accomplished that feat. A victory would also give Conley more victories this year than he had in his professional career coming into the 2013 campaign. In his first 28 professional games (26 starts) prior to this year, Conley compiled an 11-5 record.

Suns Spots: Jacksonville Suns pitchers have combined for a 2.93 ERA (78 ER in 240.0 IP) this month, which ranks second in the Southern League…Only Mobile’s 2.37 ERA (70 ER in 239.0 IP) in that span is better…In five games against the Braves this season, INF Chris Gutierrez owns a .467 average (7-15) with two runs, two doubles, a triple and three RBI…Tonight’s starter Adam Conley in his last four starts has received a total of just four runs of support (1 R/game) from the Suns’ offense, including none in each of his last three outings…That’s in comparison to a combined 23 runs scored (5.75 R/game) in his previous four starts from July 14-August 3…Infielders Jaime Pedroza(.389, 7-18 in seven games) and Edward Salcedo (.348, 8-23 in seven games), along with OF Jose Martinez (.368, 7-19 in six games) have each hit above .340 against the Suns this season…Salcedo has launched two homers, while Pedroza and Martinez have each mashed one.

Tonight’s broadcast will air on the Suns Baseball Network’s flagship station 94.1 Classic Rock WSOS-FM, plus the Suns’ mobile app. Click the link below to listen live online.

Listen live to the Suns and Braves August 31, 2013

You can also follow along with the game by following the Suns Baseball Network on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

Suns’ Barnes Enjoys First Double-A Homer After Starting In Familiar Old Spot

Player Profiles

Suns catcher Austin Barnes. Photo Courtesy: Greensboro Grasshoppers

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

After playing this entire season behind the plate, Suns catcher Austin Barnes found himself starting in a different, but very familiar spot. With regular 2B Derek Dietrich hurt, Barnes made his first start at second base in almost over a year.

“I’ve been a second baseman my whole life so it’s not that big of a transition,” he says. “It’s a little different out there, that’s for sure. It’s a different kind of focus than in catching but it’s trying to catch the ball and throwing so I try not to make it harder than it is.”

And of course in that very first frame, a groundball was hit right to Barnes.

“Getting the first one out of the way is kind of nice,” he says. “And it was a nice little groundball to me so it wasn’t too .”

It was Barnes’ first Double-A start at second, but the California native would tally another first in the last of the first- his first Double-A homer.

“Just like the first hit, it’s kind of tough to get but it felt good, especially in a crucial series against this Mississippi team,” Barnes said.

The milestone homer for Barnes smacked off the foul pole in right field, and gave the Suns a 1-0 lead against the Braves in a game where every play is magnified.

“I was just kind of trying to feel out the pitcher, I hadn’t seen him before,” he recalled. “I got in a good count and got a good fastball out, put a good swing on it.”

Barnes would collect another big hit in the eighth inning last night as well, driving in the tying run on a liner to right that just snuck over the glove of Mississippi 2B Tommy La Stella off Braves reliever Pag Egan.

“[Egan] just got me down 1-2 and I just tried to battle and put the ball in play,” he remembers. “A strikeout really kills us there, so just put some pressure on the defense at least and thankfully it fell in there.”

The Suns would fall 3-2 last night on a late Mississippi homer, but Jacksonville still remains in the hunt for the South Division second half title, entering tonight just a half game behind the Mobile BayBears for that top spot.

“It’s fun baseball…it’s what you play baseball for, games like this, ” he says.

When asked how the atmosphere of this series compares to a College World Series, which experienced twice while playing college ball at Arizona State University, Barnes said they were very similar.

“It’s playoff atmosphere, it’s playoffs even though we’re in the regular season. It’s fun,” he says. “It’s the same stuff in whatever level you’re at. The energy level’s up and every play matters.”

Barnes was a late addition to the Suns club earlier this month, transferred from High-A Jupiter on August 6. He’s adjusted well, posting a .333 average (17-51) with his homer and four RBI in 16 games for the Suns. It was also his first full year of catching after interchanging between that and second base.

“It was my first time being promoted in the middle of the year, so it was different, it was nice,” he reflects. “Catching full-time was something new…and made strides with that so I’m happy with it.”

Suns This Morning (8/31)

Suns This Morning

Marlins starter Jose Fernandez set the Marlins’ franchise rookie strikeout record in last night’s 2-1 loss in Atlanta. Photo Courtesy: Dale Zanine / USA TODAY Sports

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

Mississippi shortstop Jaime Pedroza blasted a go-ahead solo homer in the ninth inning to even the series and give the Braves a 3-2 win over the Jacksonville Suns on Friday night at Bragan Field.

The Suns’ loss along with the Mobile BayBears’ victory over Pensacola means the BayBears are now out in front in the Southern League South Division standings by a half game over Jacksonville and Mississippi with three games left to play.

Following Pedroza’s solo blast, the Suns came up in the last of the ninth and threatened, loading the bases with the tying run at third and winning run at second with two out, but Braves closer Ryne Harper shut the door to preserve Mississippi’s 3-2 win and notch his 11th save of the year.

Jacksonville tied it up in the bottom of the eighth after entering the frame down one thanks to an RBI single to right from 2B Austin Barnes. Barnes drove home both Suns tallies, including a longball in the first that put his club up 1-0.

The Braves would get their first two scores in the third after OF Dan Brewer reached on a fielding error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then third on a groundout, before coming home on C Christian Bethancourt’s RBI double. 2B Tommy La Stella would then drive home Bethancourt with his single to left.

Suns starter Anthony DeSclafani (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) yielded the two unearned runs on four hits, in addition to striking out six, to suffer the loss. Braves starter Ian Thomas (6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) did not factor in the decision despite allowing a lone earned run on just two hits, while reliever Pat Egan (1.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 SO) earned the victory.

The two teams face off again this evening at Bragan Field, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. Left-hander Adam Conley (11-7, 3.23 ERA) is set to get the ball for Jacksonville, while the Braves are expected to turn to right-hander Aaron Northcraft (8-8, 3.40 ERA).

Jacksonville’s parent club, the Miami Marlins, fell to Mississippi’s parent club, the Atlanta Braves, by a 2-1 margin last night. Freddie Freeman’s two-run homer in the first proved to be the difference in the contest. Former Suns outfielder Christian Yelich drove home the lone Marlins run with an RBI single in the third.

Miami starter Jose Fernandez (6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO) suffered the loss despite yielding the two earned runs on just three hits, adding eight strikeouts in the defeat.

The Marlins and Braves play the second game of their three-game set tonight at Turner Field, with a 7:10 p.m. first pitch time set. Miami is anticipated to give the nod to RHP Jacob Turner, while Atlanta is slated to go with LHP Mike Minor (13-5, 2.99 ERA).

Below is today’s Suns This Morning.

Florida Times-Union: “Braves Beat Suns; Mobile Back In First
The Clarion Ledger: “M-Braves Gain Share Of South Division Lead With 3-1 Win
MiLB.com: “Blash’s Big Inning Fuels Generals’ Win
Miami Herald: “Jose Fernandez Shows Grit In Tight Marlins Loss To Braves
Sun Sentinel: “Fernandez’s Rookie Strikeout Record No Consolation In Loss
Palm Beach Post: “Teheran, Braves Edge Fernandez and Marlins 2-1
MLB.com: “Fernandez Sets Marlins Franchise Rookie Record
Big League Stew: “Packers Tight End Jermichael Finley Spikes First Pitch Attempt In Milwaukee
Yahoo Sports: “Are MLB Teams Trying To Make Contracts More Like The NFL’s?
Gammons Daily: “Brandon Belt: The First Baseman You’re Not Talking About

Suns Fall to Braves 3-2 on Late Home Run

Game Recap

by Matt Leland / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite rallying from a late one-run deficit to tie the game, the Jacksonville Suns (37-29, 71-62) dropped game two of a five-game series to the Mississippi Braves (37-29, 75-61) by a score of 3-2, sending the two teams into a deadlock in the second half of the Southern League South division.

A crowd of 7,568 fans at Bragan Field witnessed one of the season’s most compelling games, as each team pitched ferociously through the first seven innings before each plating a late run. Ultimately, it was Mississippi finished on top, thanks to Jamie Pedroza’s solo home run in the top of the ninth inning off Suns reliever Scott McGough (4-2).

“It’s a tough loss,” Suns manager Andy Barkett said. “But we’ll regroup and come back and get it tomorrow.”

Jacksonville jumped out to an early advantage in support of starter Anthony DeSclafani, taking a 1-0 lead on Austin Barnes’ first inning home run. DeSclafani, however, surrendered the lead in the third, as the Braves forged ahead on RBI hits from Christian Bethancourt and Tommy LaStella.

Braves starter Ian Thomas made the lead stand, allowing just two hits over his six innings of work, striking out three and walking two. DeSclafani, meanwhile, did not allow another run after the third, finishing with seven strong frames on his record, registering six strikeouts and just one walk.

“I thought [DeSclafani] pitched great,” Barkett said. “I thought he pitched well enough to win the game. It’s a shame we lost. I couldn’t ask any more from his performance.”

In the eighth, facing reliever Pat Egan, the Suns stormed back to tie the score. Before the tying run crossed the plate, however, Barkett was ejected for arguing a close call at first base in which Brent Keys was picked off for the second out of the inning.

“I thought [Keys’] hand got in there,” Barkett said. “It looked to me like he was safe. That was a crucial spot.”

With two outs and the bases empty, Chris Gutierrez doubled down the left field line, eventually scoring the tying run on Barnes’ RBI single.

The tie didn’t last long, however. Pedroza’s solo homer gave Mississippi a 3-2 advantage into the ninth. Braves closer Ryne Harper loaded the bases with two outs, but Keys grounded to second base to end the game.

As a result of the Mobile BayBears’ victory against Pensacola, the Suns now sit in a tie for second place in the Southern League South, a half game behind Mobile and two and a half games back of the Braves for the division’s wild card spot with three games remaining.

Jacksonville will go for its second win of the series on Saturday behind left-hander Adam Conley (11-7, 3.23). Mississippi will send right-hander Aaron Northcraft (8-8, 3.40) to the mound, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Suns fans can listen to Saturday’s game on the Suns Baseball Network, 94.1 WSOS-FM or through jaxsuns.com, MiLB.com or the Suns iPhone or Android app, beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET with the UF Health Suns Pre-Game Show. The game will also be televised on the CW 17 in high definition in Jacksonville, with Roger Hoover on the call along with Suns owner and president Peter Bragan Jr.

Saturday is Halloween Two Months Away and Suns Cap Giveaway, Blood Alliance Blood Drive, & Steak Me out to the Ballgame. Fans should watch out for Zombies as it’s the Suns’ annual Halloween celebration at Bragan Field and the first 3,000 fans will receive an Orange and Black Suns Cap, courtesy of 1-2-1 Financial Credit Union, 96.9 The Eagle & First Coast News 12 & 25. Plus, fans can wear their best costumes as prizes from Dick’s Sporting Goods will be awarded in the Suns Costume Contest.

The Blood Alliance Bloodmobile will be on hand and the Suns encourage all fans to donate blood. The first 25 donors receive 2 tickets to the game, a hot dog and soda voucher and a special Suns gift. Also enjoy SteakMe Out to the Ballgame. Fans get a tender 8 oz. bacon-wrapped filet mignon, baked potato, salad, non-alcoholic beverage and general admission to the game for only $25.

Listen as the Suns battle the Braves in game two tonight

Game Preview

Infielder Chris Gutierrez’s RBI double proved to be the game-winning hit last night (Jay Metz).

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

After taking sole possession of first place last night, the Suns will look to maintain their spot at the top, facing the Mississippi Braves in game two of their series tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Bragan Field.

Fans will want to arrive early and stay late this evening at the Baseball Grounds, with the first 3,000 fans receiving a Bragan Field Stadium Replica to commemorate the first year of the newly named Bragan Field. After the game will be the NAPA Friday Family Fireworks, the best fireworks show in town. It’s also Family Faith Night at the ballpark, with Christian recording artist Jason Crabb taking the stage after the fireworks to bring together fans through music of faith and worship.

Jacksonville won their series opener 4-3 over the Braves last night, with 2B Chris Gutierrez‘s run-scoring double to left in the seventh breaking a 3-3 tie and proving to be the game-winning hit. Despite the win, the Suns remain just a half game ahead of the Mobile BayBears after they topped the Pensacola Blue Wahoos last night at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile. The M-Braves are also just a game behind with four games remaining in regular season play.

Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (5-4, 3.71 ERA) is expected to take the mound for Jacksonville this evening in the second game of the series. The 23-year-old suffered the loss in his most recent outing on August 24 at Montgomery after allowing three earned runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings pitched. The University of Florida product owns a 3-2 record and 1.99 ERA (7 ER in 31.2 IP) in five starts this month.

Slated to oppose DeSclafani tonight for Mississippi at Bragan Field is left-hander Ian Thomas (7-8, 2.84 ERA). The 26-year-old suffered the defeat when he last pithed on August 24 versus Huntsville after relinquishing two earned runs on five hits in five innings of work. The southpaw has posted a 4-5 record and 3.08 ERA (21 ER in 61.1 IP) in his 12 starts this year, compared to a 3-3 clip and 2.43 ERA (10 ER in 37.0 IP) in 26 relief appearances for the Braves.

Fans can listen to the game on the Suns Baseball Network, with the “Voice of the Suns” Roger Hoover entering his second season as Jacksonville’s Director of Broadcasting. Hoover is assisted by Matt Leland and Andrew Green. Leland and Green will host the UF Health Suns Pregame Show beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.

Below are more notes on tonight’s game, direct from the official Suns game notes compiled by Roger Hoover. The entire game notes for tonight’s contest can be viewed byclicking here.

Suns Alone On Top With Four To Play: With their victory last night, Jacksonville currently owns sole possession of first place in the second half standings of the South Division with four games remaining in the 2013 campaign. The Mobile BayBears were also victorious over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Hank Aaron Stadium last night, meaning the Suns are still just a half game ahead of the BayBears, in addition to one game above the Mississippi Braves. The Suns are in search of their first division title in a half since 2010, when they won both the first (40-30, .571) and second halves (41-29, .586) en route to their second straight Southern League Championship.

Southpaw Struggles: Jacksonville this season when facing a left-handed starter owns a 15-18 record, compared to a 56-43 clip when facing a right-handed starting pitcher. The Suns have had better numbers against lefties in the second half however, compiling an 8-8 mark in that span, compared to a 7-10 record in the first half of 2013. Southpaw starters against the Suns in the first half posted a 9-1 clip and 2.67 ERA (30 ER in 101.0 IP), compared to a 4-7 record and 4.45 ERA (42 ER in 85.0 IP) in the second part of the year. Those hurlers also recorded a 1.13 WHIP and .202 batting average (75-372) against in the first half, as opposed to in the opposite half, when they have accumulated a 1.46 WHIP and .243 average (79-325) against them. Overall this year, the team has combined for a .222 clip (253-1140) against left-handed pitching, in comparison to a .240 mark (733-3058) versus right-handers.

Closing Time: Suns closer Michael Brady notched his Southern League leading 22nd save last night in his 24th save opportunity. The right-hander has successfully converted each of his last ten save chances. In save situations this season, Brady owns a 0.35 ERA (1 ER in 26.0 IP), along with a 0.73 WHIP. Opposing hitters have also recorded a .185 batting average (17-92) against Brady in those 24 save opportunities in 2013. Should Brady finish the season as the league leader in saves, he would become the third Suns reliever to accomplish that feat through the 2004 season. Former Suns Sandy Rosario (23) in 2011 and Matt Peterson (37) in 2010 are the other two Jacksonville hurlers to lead the Southern League in saves in that time period.

Deuces Wild For Keys: OF Brent Keys recorded his third multi-hit contest with the Suns last night in just his fourth game with the club since being promoted from High-A Jupiter on August 25. In those four games thus far, Keys has compiled a .353 average (6-17), in addition to two walks and just one strikeout in his 17 at bats. At the time of his promotion from the Hammerheads to the Suns, the 23-year-old was leading the Florida State League with a .346 average (132-381) and on-base percentage (.418) in 95 contests, in addition to second in hits (132). Keys’ .347 mark (138-398) between Jupiter and Jacksonville ranks second among all full-season Minor Leaguers this season, with only Triple-A Rochester INF Chris Colabello‘s .352 clip (119-338) better since the beginning of the year.

Suns Spots: Last night’s victory was the Suns’ 15th in the month of August…Jacksonville won exactly 14 games in April (14-10), May (14-14), June (14-13) and July 14-12)…The club’s pitchers have combined for a 3.00 ERA this month which ties them for second in the Southern League…Only the Mobile BayBears have totaled a better earned-run average this month at 2.43…The Suns own a league-best 51-13 record (.797) when scoring first, in addition to a 43-13 mark (.768) when scoring last, which ranks second in the circuit…Last night’s victory was the Suns’ 71st of the season which is the highest win total by a Jacksonville club since 2010 (81-59)…The Suns finished with 70-70 records in each of the last two seasons…The win also tied a single-season managerial career-high for Jacksonville skipper Andy Barkett, who also led the High-A Lakeland Tigers to a 71-67 mark in 2010…In six games against the Suns this year, Braves infielders Jaime Pedroza (.357, 5-14) and Edward Salcedo (.400, 8-20), along with OF Jose Martinez (.368, 7-19), have all accumulated a .350 average or better.

Tonight’s broadcast will air on the Suns Baseball Network’s flagship station 94.1 Classic Rock WSOS-FM, plus the Suns’ mobile app. Click the link below to listen live online.

Listen live to the Suns and Braves August 30, 2013

You can also follow along with the game by following the Suns Baseball Network on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

Third Base Coach Rich Arena Brings Experience to Sun’s Playoff Chase

Player Profiles
arena

Bob Mack / The Times-Union

by Matt Leland / Jacksonville Suns

Jacksonville Suns’ third base coach Rich Arena has spent nearly two decades as a coach and scout in professional baseball, bringing a wealth of experience to Jacksonville’s staff, bench and third base coaches’ box.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Arena is treating the Suns’ current series against the Mississippi Braves—one that will determine whether Jacksonville reaches the postseason—like any other.

“I don’t [prepare differently],” Arena said. “I go out there and do my job, as we expect our kids to. For guys who don’t go out there and conduct their every business this time of year, they’re probably not out there playing.”

Arena pointed out that he feels the team has adopted a similar approach, attempting to treat the most critical series of the year the same as they would any other.

“Our preparation on an everyday basis has been the same,” Arena said. “These kids know what’s at stake. They know there are four games left, and we’re up by one. This is what you play this game for, these types of situations.”

The Suns have undergone a vast transformation since the beginning of the season, and yet still find themselves with a one-game lead in the Southern League South division with just four games left to play. Arena, with a bird’s eye view of the squad since the first week of April, noted several factors in the Suns’ success that have kept the team afloat.

“You’ve got talented players and a great clubhouse,” Arena said. “[Suns manager] Andy Barkett runs a hell of a clubhouse. A championship club, every season, has got a great clubhouse. Our guys get along and they get after it every day.”

While Arena is a hitting coach by trade, he has spent time studying Jacksonville’s new breed of starting pitchers, a major change on the team that has spurred the Suns to a run at a second half division title.

“It’s the old adage of getting early contact for outs,” Arena said. “Those times during the year this year when our pitching staff and our club has struggled, it’s been tough to get a first pitch strike or get guys out early in counts.”

Arena might be a veteran, but that doesn’t mean he is beyond feeling the excitement that comes with a do-or-die series such as the one involving the Suns and Braves.

“This is why we play,” Arena said. “These are the types of situations you’d like to be in more often, because once you get to the big leagues and you’re in these situations, you don’t want it to be your first time.”

And the key to turning that excitement into wins?

“Going out and having fun.”

Suns’ Brady Named Southern League Post-Season All-Star

Breaking News

Suns closer Michael Brady was named a Southern League Post-Season All-Star Friday (Jay Metz).

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

The Southern League announced Friday that Jacksonville Suns closer Michael Bradyhas been named to the league’s Post-Season All-Star Team as the circuit’s top relief pitcher. The team was voted upon by the league’s field managers, radio broadcasters and print media.

Brady enters Friday’s action leading the league with 22 saves in 24 opportunities, three ahead of Montgomery Biscuits right-hander Juan Sandoval’s second place mark of 19. In save situations this year, Brady has accumulated a 0.35 ERA, allowing a lone earned run in 26.0 innings of work in those 24 chances, in addition to recording a 0.73 WHIP. Opposing hitters have also managed just a .185 batting average (17-92) against the 26-year-old in those situations.

Overall this season, the California native has posted a 2-2 record and 1.59 ERA (9 ER in 51.0 IP) in 47 appearances for the Suns and has finished a league-high 43 contests, while his 47 outings rank him tied for fourth among all Southern Leaguers. In addition, the right-hander’s 1.59 earned-run average places him fourth in the circuit among hurlers with at least 40.0 innings pitched in 2013. Brady was also named

Selected by the Marlins in the 24th round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of California-Berkeley, Brady has totaled 65 saves in 78 opportunities in his first four seasons as a pitcher since converting to the position from infielder in 2010. The 26-year-old also finished last season tied for second in the Florida State League with 22 saves in 28 chances for the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads.

Suns This Morning (8/30)

Suns This Morning
Suns infielder Chris Gutierrez smack what turned out to be the game-winning RBI double in last night's 4-3 win.

Suns infielder Chris Gutierrez smack what turned out to be the game-winning RBI double in last night’s 4-3 win.

By Andrew Green / Jacksonville Suns

Second baseman Chris Gutierrez broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning with  a run-scoring double to push the Suns ahead and give Jacksonville a 4-3 victory over the Mississippi Braves on Thursday night at Bragan Field.

The win puts the Suns in sole possession of first place in the South Division standings with four games to go. Currently Jacksonville stands a half game ahead of the Mobile BayBears and one game in front of the M-Braves.

LF Brent Keys led off the key frame with a single to left, and then was moved to second on SS Danny Black’s sacrifice bunt. Following a strikeout, Gutierrez came to the plate with two outs and delivered his clutch two-bagger to left to break the draw.

It was Mississippi would took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth when LF Robby Hefflinger doubled to left to score Tommy La Stella from second. Jacksonville would counter in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of C J.T. Realmuto’s second RBI single of the night.

It was Realmuto’s first of those base knocks that helped the Suns get out to an early 2-0 lead in the opening frame. After 2B Derek Dietrich’s RBI single scored the contest’s first tally, Realmuto would drive in to double the tally.

Mississippi evened the score at two in the fifth thanks to Jacksonville native and Braves CF Mycal Jones’ two-run single to left.

Suns starter Andrew Heaney (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) did not factor in the decision after yielding three earned runs on six hits in six innings of work, while relievers Collin Cargill, Nick Wittgren and Michael Brady each fired a perfect inning in support of the left-hander. Cargill earned the win, while Wittgren got a hold in his Suns and Double-A debut and Brady notched his Southern League leading 22nd save of the year.

The Suns and Braves face off again tonight at Bragan Field at 7:05 p.m. Jacksonville is expected to give the ball to RHP Anthony DeSclafani (5-4, 3.71 ERA), while Mississippi is slated to send LHP Ian Thomas (7-8, 2.84 ERA) to the bump.

Former Suns right-hander Sam Dyson became the seventh member of the 2013 Jacksonville Suns to be promoted to the Big Leagues Thursday, with the Marlins calling up Dyson from Triple-A New Orleans. In a corresponding move, former Suns reliever Arquimedes Caminero was optioned to the Zephyrs.

Last night the Fish fell to the Washington Nationals 9-0 in their series finale at Nationals Park. 3B Ryan Zimmerman and RF Jayson Werth paced Washington with three hits apiece, including a homer from Werth. LF Bryce Harper and SS Ian Desmond also launched longballs for the Nationals in the victory.

Miami now travels to Atlanta to begin a three-game set at Turner Field with the Braves, with the series opener slated for a 7:30 p.m. start. RHP Jose Fernandez (10-5, 2.30 ERA) is anticipated to take the hill for the Marlins, while Atlanta is expected to counter with RHP Julio Teheran (10-7, 3.08 ERA).

Below is today’s Suns This Morning.

Florida Times-Union: “Suns Win Opener In Showdown Series
The Clarion Ledger: “Suns Top M-Braves, Grab Lead In South Division
MiLB.com: “Smokies’ Ramirez Gets Off On Right Foot
Miami Herald: “Marlins Shut Out By Washington Nationals
Sun Sentinel: “Dyson Took Rough Path To Marlins
Palm Beach Post: “Gonzalez Helps Nationals Whip Marlins 9-0
MLB.com: “Fernandez Gets First Crack At Braves As Marlins Visit Atlanta
Big League Stew: “Torii Hunter’s Three-Run Walk-Off Homer Turns Rough Day For Tigers Into A Spectacular Win
New York Times: “The Mets, Brought To You In…
ESPN.com: “The Art Of Scoring

Suns Take Opener From Braves, 4-3

Game Recap

by Matt Leland / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns (37-28, 71-61) earned a crucial win in the opener of a five-game series against the Mississippi Braves (36-29, 74-61), rallying from behind for a 4-3 win at Bragan Field.

Chris Gutierrez, who entered the game for an injured Derek Dietrich, finished 3-for-3 and collected what proved to be the game-winning hit in the seventh inning as Jacksonville put itself a game in front of the Braves in the Southern League South division.

“This win was huge,” said Suns manager Andy Barkett following the win. “We came out tonight and played with energy. It was really satisfying for our team.”

The Suns jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning facing Mississippi right-hander Michael Lee. Dietrich singled home Jacksonville’s first run and came around to score himself on J.T. Realmuto’s two-out hit. Dietrich, however, experienced discomfort running the bases and was forced to leave the contest.

“I’m not sure whether it was an oblique or something with his back,” Barkett said of Dietrich’s injury. “We’ll evaluate him tomorrow and see how he feels.”

Facing Suns starter Andrew Heaney, the Braves stormed back to tie the game in the fifth on Mycal Jones’ two-run single. Heaney then surrendered the lead in the sixth, allowing a runscoring double by Robby Hefflinger to give Mississippi a 3-2 lead.

Realmuto tied the game again with his second RBI in the sixth, sending the game to the seventh knotted at three. In the bottom half of the frame, Gutierrez came to the plate with Brent Keys on second and lined a double to right, putting Jacksonville ahead for good.

Right-hander Nick Wittgren navigated through a scoreless eighth, and Michael Brady earned his 22nd save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.

The Suns, attempting to inch closer to a South division title, will send right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (5-4, 3.71) to the mound in game two of the five-game series. Mississippi will counter with lefty Ian Thomas (7-8, 2.84), with first pitch scheduled for 705 p.m. ET.

Suns fans can listen to Friday’s game on the Suns Baseball Network, 94.1 WSOS-FM or through jaxsuns.com, MiLB.com or the Suns iPhone or Android app, beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET with the UF Health Suns Pre-Game Show.