SUNS: Shoemaker hits grand slam to boost Jacksonville over Barons, 8-3

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville first baseman Brady Shoemaker hit a grand slam for the Suns’ first hit to cap a five-run third inning that provided the difference in an 8-3 win over the Birmingham Barons, giving the Suns back-to-back victories to open the season in front of 6,371 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Friday night.

Donning red jerseys to begin a season-long series of Red Shirt Fridays honoring military personnel, the Suns (2-0) started the season with consecutive wins – each by five runs – for the first time in three seasons.

Jacksonville took the lead for good without the aid of a hit. Barons right-hander Carson Fulmer (0-1) set down the first seven Suns in order before issuing three straight one-out walks. Suns left fielder Jeremias Pineda grounded into a force play at home plate for the second out, but Fulmer walked designated hitter Austin Dean on four pitches to force in the first run. With the bases loaded and a 1-0 Suns lead, 

Shoemaker drove a 2-2 offering from Fulmer to the right-field bleachers for his first grand slam since May 30, 2010, when he hit one for Class-A Kannapolis while playing in the White Sox organization. It was the first Suns grand slam since Matt Juengel hit one on June 17, 2015.

Starting the fourth inning with a 5-0 deficit, Birmingham (0-2) put the first four batters on base against Suns left-hander Jarlin Garcia. A walk, two consecutive singles and a ground ball misplayed by shortstop J.T. Riddle gave the Barons a run. With the tying run at the plate and no outs, Garcia escaped the bases-loaded jam with a foul popup, strikeout and groundout.

The Suns extended their lead to 6-1 with Juengel’s RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Juengel and catcher Francisco Arcia each added an RBI single in the eighth inning. Jacksonville was 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Suns right-hander Patrick Johnson (1-0) started the fifth inning for his Southern League debut and went 2 2/3 scoreless innings before a seventh-inning walk and RBI triple by Barons center fielder Adam Engel. Left-hander Jose Jose recorded three outs and allowed one run. Right-hander Tyler Bremer got the final four outs for his first Southern League save.

UP NEXT: The Suns continue their opening series with the Barons at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, when Suns right-hander Austin Brice is scheduled to face Barons left-hander Jordan Guerrero. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the first 1,000 fans receive a free Glow-in-the-Dark T-Shirt from Memorial Hospital, as well as a free magnet schedule presented by Bug Out. The Red Trouser Show will perform acrobatics before and during the game.

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