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Suns walk away with Finals opener

Jacksonville draws 10 free passes, builds early lead in 5-3 victory
September 11, 2014

Plenty of players in the Jacksonville lineup have shown a willingness to walk of late, but even in a postseason heavy on free passes, the Suns put their patience on display Wednesday night.

Jacksonville collected eight hits and drew 10 walks, including two apiece for the top three batters in the lineup: Austin Nola, Austin Barnes and J.T. Realmuto. The result was an early lead and a 5-3 victory over Chattanooga in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Southern League Championship Series.

The Marlins' Double-A affiliate drew 30 free walks over four games in its semifinal series against Mobile. During the regular season, the Suns ranked second in the league behind Huntsville with 546 walks.

"It's kind of been a team-wide thing," said Realmuto, Miami's seventh-ranked prospect. "We don't have a lot of big boppers, not a lot of guys who will hit a lot of home runs. We have to work the count and find ways to get on base, get their starters out of the game as early as we can."

The Lookouts didn't do themselves any favors early. Over the first two innings, right-hander Andres Santiago walked four batters, hit another and threw three wild pitches as the Suns jumped to a 5-1 advantage.

More on Game 1: Suns momentum carries over to Finals »

Nola and Realmuto sparked the first-inning outburst, with Nola singling and Realmuto walking. The pair moved up on a wild pitch, Nola came home on Brady Shoemaker's sacrifice fly and Realmuto scored from second on Joe Benson's single to left field.

In the third, Isaac Galloway and Nola walked and moved into scoring position on a one-out wild pitch. Realmuto scored Galloway with a two-out infield hit and Nola raced home on a wild pitch a batter later. Realmuto came around again on Viosergy Rosa's double.

Realmuto and Benson had two hits apiece, with Realmuto reaching base four times, scoring twice and driving in a run. The plate discipline has been a point of emphasis that's helped Jacksonville win 15 of its last 16 games.

Marlins' No. 9 prospect Jose Urena (1-0) got the win after allowing three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.

"He's been kind of a horse," Realmuto said. "He's done well the whole second half, especially the last month. He's thrown well every start. He gives us a chance to win. He has good stuff and just pounds the strike zone."

Matt Ramsey struck out the side -- all swinging -- in the ninth for his third playoff save. He's yet to allow a run over three innings in the postseason.

Dodgers top prospect Corey Seager went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth inning for Chattanooga, which hosts Game 2 on Thursday.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner.