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Suns' momentum spills into Finals opener

Jacksonville has won 18 of last 21, including Game 1 over Lookouts
September 11, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- It's a well-worn baseball axiom that momentum is only as good as tomorrow's starting pitcher, but the Jacksonville Suns have been carrying success from one day to the next for three weeks, no matter who's on the mound.

Their 5-3 victory to open the Southern League Finals on Wednesday night was their 18th in the past 21 games, including a stretch when the Suns won their final 10 games of the regular season to edge out Mississippi for a second-half South Division title.

"It's nice to keep the momentum going," said catcher J.T. Realmuto, the Miami Marlins' No. 7 prospect, who went 2-for-3 with two walks. "Baseball is a game of momentum, and if our offense gets going it's pretty tough to stop. As long as our pitchers keep going like this, we should be all right."

The Suns' SL Finals opponent, Chattanooga, had handed Jacksonville Game 1 starter and Marlins No. 9 prospect Jose Urena his only two losses since June, but by the time Corey Seager solved a tiring Urena with a two-run homer in the sixth inning, he was merely able to cut the lead in half.

Jacksonville was aided by an uncharacteristically wild outing from Lookouts starter Andres Santiago, who failed to get past the second inning for the second time in five starts.

Santiago looked nothing like the pitcher who no-hit Tennessee on Aug. 28. This time, the 24-year-old right-hander walked four, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches over two innings, with 26 of his 51 pitches missing the strike zone. He gave up four hits and had no strikeouts while allowing all five Suns runs.

More on Game 1: Suns patience leads to victory »

"His command was off, and when you can't command the ball against a good baseball team, you usually end up on the short end of the stick," Chattanooga manager Razor Shines said. "He was our best starter down the stretch and I'll take my chances with him. He just didn't have it tonight. It happens in this game."

After Santiago exited, the Chattanooga bullpen allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings, but the damage had been done.

Suns closer Matt Ramsey, who struck out the side in the ninth for his third postseason save, paused to consider the run his club is on.

"Surreal -- that's definitely the perfect word for it," he said of the Suns' late run of success. "We had to win 10 straight just to get into the playoffs and we don't want to stop now. We need two more victories."

Ramsey, acquired by Miami from Tampa Bay in July, has seven strikeouts in three scoreless outings during the postseason while allowing just one hit.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," said Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett. "He throws the ball well and attacks the zone. He does a great job for us."

Jacksonville relievers gave up only one hit over 3 2/3 innings and recorded eight strikeouts to one walk in relief of the starter Urena, who now has a postseason win to add to his 13 regular-season victories for the Suns.

The 22-year-old, who was regularly hitting 97 mph with his fastball, gave up a first-inning run but seemed in complete control until tiring quickly in the sixth.

"It just seemed like he ran out of gas," Barkett said. "He's carried a heck of a load for us all year and he just got a little elevated in the zone with his pitches."

Guy Curtright is a contributor to