BILOXI -- The Biloxi Shuckers had an early lead again Thursday night against the Mississippi Braves, but a five-run sixth-inning by the Braves helped them to a 7-4 win and a 2-1 advantage in the series.
The Shuckers have dropped back-to-back games at MGM Park now just twice this season and the loss places the club two games behind the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for first place in the Southern League South Division with 17 games remaining in the half.
Biloxi (30-23) scratched across the first run of the game in the fourth without the benefit of a hit against M-Braves' starter Sean Newcomb (3-2). Back-to-back walks to Nathan Orf (0x3, R, BB) and Domingo Santana (1x3, BB) started the frame, and Garrett Cooper (1x3, BB) bounced into a fielder's choice to first baseman Jacob Schrader, who fired down to second to erase Santana. Shortstop Johan Camargo's return throw to first sailed wide of first and carried into the Shuckers' dugout, allowing Orf to score.
Santana played the entire game on Thursday, recovering from shoulder soreness and closed his rehab stint going 2-for-6 with four walks, two runs and a homer over three games.
Newcomb took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before back-to-back singles by Santana and Cooper broke up the bid. The Atlanta Braves' top pitching prospect went six frames and allowed one run on two hits, three walks and seven strikeouts.
Mississippi (24-29) retaliated with a five-spot in the sixth to seize control of the game. Javi Salas hit Matt Lipka with the first pitch of the inning, and the base runner stole second with Levi Hyams at the plate. The Braves' second baseman grounded out to first, allowing Lipka to advance to third. With the tying run 90 ft. away, the Shuckers' starter walked Mel Rojas, Jr. to put runners at the corners. A passed ball by Rene Garcia allowed Lipka to score and tie the game at 1-1.
Schrader was the second man to be hit by a pitch in the inning, and Carlos Franco followed with a single to center to load the bases and end the night for Salas (3-2).
The Coral Gables, Fla. native ended up ceding four of the seven runs on the night on five hits, a walk and four strikeouts. The Shuckers lost for just the second time when the 24-year-old starts a game.
Brooks Hall came out of the bullpen in an attempt to hold the Braves at bay and struck out the first man he faced in Matt Kennelly. But an RBI single to left was misplayed by Victor Roache and rolled all the way to the wall, clearing the bases to put the Shuckers in a 4-1 deficit. Johan Camargo followed with a run-scoring double to plate the fifth run of the inning.
Schrader increased the gap between the teams with a two-run shot over the wall in left in the seventh, making it 7-1.
Brett Phillips (1x3, 2 RBI, 3B) became the first Biloxi player to reach the 30 RBI plateau with a two-run triple that plugged the gap in right-center in the seventh, scoring Garcia and Chris McFarland (1x3, R) to bring the Shuckers within four. The 22-year-old has exactly 30 runs driven in on the season.
Reliever Hobbs Johnson allowed one hit over the final two innings out of the Shuckers' bullpen.
Javier Betancourt (1x4, HR, RBI, R) added his third home run of the season to start off the ninth against reliever Steve Kent for the Shuckers fourth run of the game.
Biloxi will try to pull even in the five-game series in game four of the set on Friday night at MGM Park. RHP Jorge Ortega (0-4, 3.88) seeks his first win of the season for the Shuckers, while RHP Rob Whalen (3-4, 3.04) looks to take the series for the Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m., with coverage starting at 6:50 p.m. on the Biloxi Shuckers' Radio Network's flagship station WGCM 1240 AM, 100.9 FM, Pascagoula's WPMO 1580 AM and the TuneIn Radio app.
Friday night the first 1,000 fans through the gate receive a Biloxi Shuckers T-Shirt, presented by the Mississippi National Guard. The homestand concludes on Saturday night at 7:10 pm and Post-Game Fireworks follow the game.