Jacksonville made the most of one inning, sending 11 batters the plate in the sixth and scoring five runs, and that proved to be the difference in a 5-2 win over the Mississippi Braves Saturday in front of 6,360 at the Baseball Grounds.
Jumbo Shrimp starting pitcher Trevor Richards allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings, his third consecutive strong outing. His performance comes on the heel of similar outings from Chris Mazza (one run in six innings) and Matt Tomshaw (no runs in seven innings) in the first two games of the series. The three starters combined to allow 11 hits and one run while striking out 22 in 19 innings.
“A great job by Trevor tonight,” Jumbo Shrimp manager Randy Ready said. “He was efficient; he worked ahead of the hitters and throwing his change-up for strikes all night. He was outstanding tonight. He kept everybody off balance.”
Richards walked two in the first two innings, then settled in. He retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced and finished with eight strikeouts. The only batter to hit safely was Joey Meneses who had a broken bat, bloop single into centerfield in the fourth inning.
Richards threw 86 pitches, including 34 balls, a high number for him. Richards had walked two batters just once in his last six outings. It’s the seventh time in 10 starts with the Jumbo Shrimp that Richards has allowed two or fewer earned runs.
Richards kept the Shrimp in a scoreless tie for five innings. Jacksonville threatened several times early, loading the bases with no outs in the first and putting a runner on third with one out in the second. But the Shrimp couldn’t push anyone across home plate until the sixth inning.
That’s when the first five batters and eight of nine all reached base safely. That included five singles, two walks and a mammoth home run by Taylor Ard that brought home the first three runs. Ard’s 371-foot shot over the leftfield wall was his 11th of the year and increased his RBI count to 43, both of which are second on the team to John Norwood (16, 45).
It was Ard’s third home run in the Shrimp’s last six games.
“I was just trying to keep things as simple as possible, not try to do too much, not swing too hard,” Ard said. “I was looking for something out over, whether it was a fast ball or breaking pitch. Luckily he left a fast ball out over the plate a little bit and I was able to get the barrel out to it and put a good swing on it.
The Shrimp lost their bid for a second shutout in as many nights when Jared James hit a two-run homer off reliever Tyler Kinley in the ninth inning.
Jacksonville goes for a 10th series win 12 home series this year when it meets the Braves in a 3:05 p.m. start on Sunday. Lefty Dillon Peters (3-2, 2.89) goes for the Shrimp against Touki Toussaint (0-2, 2.45).