By: Kyle Crooks / Jacksonville Suns
The Jacksonville Suns (26-33) will begin a five-game set with the Tennessee Smokies (32-27) tonight with a first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. ET from Bragan Field.
The Suns are coming off a series victory after taking four of five from the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the “Batttle for the Golden Skillet”. They’ll transition to play the Tennessee Smokies who are battling for a first half crown with the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League North Division.
The Smokies enter play 32-27 and now three and a half games back in the Southern League North Division standings. The final game of their five-game set with the Birmingham Barons was cancelled due to wet grounds. The series saw Tennessee drop three of the four games played, while being no-hit by Barons’ righty Frankie Montas in a seven-inning contest on 6/9. Their lineup features Kyle Schwarber and Dan Vogelbach who have given opposing pitchers a rough go at it. Schwarber leads the S.L. in on-base percentage (.440), walks generated (39), slugging percentage (.585), he’s second in home runs (13), RBI (39), third in total bases (107), and he currently sits fifth in runs scored (37). Vogelbach enters tonight with the league’s second-best on-base percentage (.429). Another standout in the lineup includes Willson Contreas, who is knotted in third for extra-base hits (23). The anchor of the rotation has been right-hander Frank Batista, who comes into this five-game set with the S.L’s best ERA (1.49), and tied for second in wins (6), while generating 66 and one-third frames pitched which is good for fifth most. Against Batista, opponents are batting a lowly .198. Tennessee will be sending Schwarber, Vogelbach, Contreas, and pitchers Batista, Corey Black, P.J. Francescon, and Felix Pena to this year’s Southern League All-Star game in Montgomery. The Smokies are tied with their North Division foe Chattanooga, with a total of seven players chosen for the festivities.
Tonight’s pitching matchup will feature Jacksonville left-hander Matt Tomshaw to be opposed by Tennessee righty Felix Pena. Tomshaw in his last effort may have solidified a spot in the starting rotation, after replacing Kendry Flores when he was recalled to the parent club Miami Marlins. The southpaw tossed six no-hit innings his last time out in a spot start against Pensacola on 6/6, in what was his fourth start of 2015. The Jacksonville University product has posted a 2-4 record alongside a 3.00 ERA, and was a rule-5 pickup of the Marlins in 2014 from the Minnesota Twins. This is his first year at the double-A level, after collecting 11 wins a year ago with the High-A Fort Myers Miracle, while sporting a 3.50 ERA.
For the Smokies, righty Felix Pena will enter this trip to the hill 5-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 11 starts. The right-hander earned a winning decision his last time out against Chattanooga on 6/4, lasting seven innings allowing one run (earned) on four hits. This is his second go-around with the Smokies after posting a 2-4 mark a year ago with a 7.48 ERA in six starts with the club. The former non-drafted free agent signing of the Chicago Cubs in 2009, earned Mid-Season All Star honors in 2013 with Kane County and with Daytona in 2014.
Fans can listen to the game live on the Suns Baseball Network, with Roger Hoover providing play by play. Roger Hoover and Kyle Crooks will host the Memorial Hospital Suns Pre-Game Show beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.
The 2015 season of Suns baseball is presented by EverBank, the official banking partner of the Jacksonville Suns. Sponsorships, group outings, and season/individual game tickets are currently available by calling the Suns front office at (904) 358-2846.
Matchup: Tennessee Smokies (32-27) @ Jacksonville Suns (26-33)
Starters: PEN: RHP Felix Pena (5-2, 3.32 ERA) vs. JAX: LHP Matt Tomshaw (2-4, 3.00 ERA)
Who’s Hot: Carlos Lopez has hit safely in ten of his last eleven games and during that stretch has manufactured a .326 average (14-for-43). Matt Juengel blasted his tenth home run of the season while also producing a double in last night’s loss. For Juengel, last night marked his fourth three-hit game, and he now controls a team-best 17 multi-hit games.
Suns Spots: Here’s a note from the official Jacksonville Suns game notes:
-Closer Sean Donatello is first in saves (14) in the Southern League. Zack Cox rests tenth in batting average (.312) while Matt Juengel is knotted in third in home runs (10) and Viosergy Rosa sits second in walks generated (34).