(HUNTSVILLE) - Carolina popped three solo home runs off Mike Jones over his three innings of work in his first start for Huntsville since last May, then a fourth for good measure off Robert Hinton as the Mudcats outslugged the Huntsville Stars, 7-5, in the final game of a five-game series at Joe Davis Stadium, Monday.
Carolina took four of out five in their series, only the second series the Stars have lost since the start of the season. The other series loss came against West Tennessee, who is chasing Huntsville for the Northern division lead.
The loss reduced the Stars lead to 1½ games after West Tennessee beat Mobile 5-4, yesterday.
The Stars (30-15) have a day off before they host Southern division-leading Birmingham for the first time this season, Wednesday. The Mudcats (26-19) pulled to within four games of the top spot in the division.
Jones made six starts for Huntsville last year, going 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA, before going on the disabled list, then eventually elbow surgery.
In his first start after a call-up from Brevard County, Jones gave up home runs in each of his three innings to Cameron Maybin, Brett Hayes, and John Raynor, which staked Carolina to a 3-0 lead. Jones had allowed only 12 home runs in his entire career in 398 innings before the game.
Jones was removed because of a pitch limit, and was charged with the loss after allowing five hits, walking two and recording one strikeout.
Alcides Escobar's two-out single in the 3rd reduced the Mudcats lead to 3-1 and a solo home run by Mat Gamel in the 5th, his 10th of the season, cut the lead to 3-2. That's as close as the Stars would get.
Derrell McCall grabbed the win in his Double-A debut, yielding 2 runs on 4 hits in 5 innings.
Chris Coghlan homered in the 6th off Hinton to push Carolina's lead to 6-2.
Angel Salome extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff double in the 8th and Mike Bell tripled him in to add another Stars run. Bell then scored on a Freddy Parejo sacrifice fly to trim the lead to 6-4.
The Mudcats extended their lead in the 9th off Patrick Ryan, whose scoreless inning streak was halted at 20 2/3 innings, the longest in club history for a Stars reliever from the start of a season.
The Stars then added one more in the 9th on an RBI single by Gamel, but Matt LaPorta hit into a double play to end the game.
The Stars will send SL strikeout leader Steve Hammond (5-1, 2.61) to the mound, Wednesday, against Birmingham southpaw Clayton Richard (3-6, 3.46).