Jacksonville (25-24) ran off victories in the middle three games over the Mississippi Braves at the Baseball Grounds for the Jumbo Shrimp’s second straight series win. During the homestand, the good guys went 6-3. Jax was able to notch runs before the M-Braves (14-34) in the first four games, and the starting pitching has been consistent and gone deep as of late for the First Coast’s favorites.
Like it has been for the majority of the second half, the South Division is a tight race. Four teams are within three games of first place. Jacksonville trails first-place Mobile (26-24) by a half game. Fortunately the Jumbo Shrimp have been one of the three hottest Southern League teams over the previous 10 games. Biloxi (24-24) has also gone 7-3 in their last 10. Jax will face the Mobile BayBears from Wednesday to Sunday at Hank Aaron Stadium.
- Jacksonville’s right-handed ace Chris Mazza extended his scoreless streak to 15 innings on Thursday night and finished with a career-high nine strikeouts. He allowed one run over six innings, after a career-long eight and a third one week earlier in Biloxi. However, the M-Braves rattled off five consecutive hits and a walk in the eighth inning before tying the series opener at three runs apiece. The hot bats stayed scalding for the away team as the Braves scored three runs in the ninth for an 8-3 final.
- Left-handed starter Matt Tomshaw recorded his team-high 11th win on Friday after pitching seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 win. It was the second time All-Stars Tomshaw and Braves starter Mike Soroka, who entered with the league’s lowest ERA of 2.69, have gone head-to-head in the last three weeks. Tomshaw allowed five hits, struck out five Braves and his 11 wins ties his career high. A highlight of the night was Soroka having a 10-pitch battle with Jacksonville’s Braxton Lee. With runners in the corners, Lee fouled off six two-strike pitches and eventually lined an RBI single to left field for the 2-0 lead.
- The Jumbo Shrimp have seen strong starting pitching especially from their first three guys recently. Trevor Richards kept the Mazza and Tomshaw good vibes rolling with one hit allowed in six scoreless innings. Richards (4-4) has gone 2-2 in his last four starts, but that does not tell his whole story since July 26. During that stretch, Richards has been a guarantee for five frames, allowing five hits or less and not giving up more than two runs. Oh, and mark him down for a strikeout count between five and eight. He had a strong three-game stretch from June 29 to July 9 but the 24-year-old is bringing his best stuff to the mound at the most crucial part of the season. Did we mention that Richards also has a 13-inning scoreless streak currently? We could have led with that.
- Jacksonville notched 13 hits to send the home squad to a 9-3 game four win and a series victory over the M-Braves. Donning Guy-Harvey designed jerseys, right fielder John Norwood led the Jumbo Shrimp charge with three hits and a game-high three RBIs to provide his team its third straight win. Norwood sent a double down the third-base line in the third inning to score Braxton Lee and give Jax a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish. With a 5-3 advantage and the bases full in the seventh, Norwood again got a base knock – this time a two-run single. In the series finale, starting pitcher Joe Gunkel lined a bases-loaded single to left-center field for his first two career RBIs and gave the Shrimp a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately Gunkel (4-8) was rocked for 10 hits and eight earned runs in Jacksonville’s 8-2 loss.
- The Jumbo Shrimp end the season with series away this week, home, away and home. Jacksonville and Mobile have not faced one another since the end of June into early July when the Shrimp won the first five games of the team’s lone six-game set at the Baseball Grounds. The pair also have been the best against South Division foes in the second half. Jax is 15-10 while Mobile has a 13-8 record versus same-division opponents. The BayBears looked sharp in a tough road battle where they took three of five at Pensacola – with two wins coming by one run. But two of the BayBears last four series (one home, one away) involve the Biloxi Shuckers, who Mobile has gone 2-6 against this summer.