First Half North Division Champions. That is all. After a nine-game winning streak as the calendar turned from May to June, it seemed inevitable. Nonetheless, there was something special about this Generals team getting it done Saturday night.
The Magic Number had been stuck at one for days. The Generals lost in 14 innings to Pensacola Thursday night, then lost in 14 the next night after a five-hour bus ride to Mississippi.
Of course, it would take more than nine innings for the Generals to finally clinch on Saturday. The team squeaked across a run in the top of the 13th and Dan Altavilla closed it out with a five-pitch inning.
That final out was the last of 26-straight men retired by the Generals staff between Andrew Moore and the Bullpen. Matt Anderson, Emilio Pagan and Altavilla combined for six perfect innings in relief. And that sums up this Jackson squad in the First Half. When the offense is scuffling, the pitching picks up the slack and vice versa.
Seeing this team go from 53-84 to First Half Champions has been an awesome experience. I know that teams change year to year, but the Generals have a lot of returners that went through a much different 2015. Same goes for the guys that played in Tacoma and Bakersfield last season.
I touched on that and much more in an interview I did with Daren Brown the next day. Really, the whole team played a crucial role in a remarkable half.
The Generals almost led the division wire-to-wire. Jackson trailed by a half-game after a loss on May 12, but otherwise has stood on top the division. Things got a little dicey after Montgomery walked off May 25 to start an 11-game road trip, cutting the lead to 2.5 games. But just as we’ve seen time and time again, the Generals responded well to adversity. They rattled off nine-straight wins, five against Montgomery, and ran away with the Division.
This team will play in the postseason for the first time since 2012. As it stands now, the Generals are two wins away for setting the record for most in a half since becoming a Mariners affiliate in 2007. I definitely wouldn’t doubt them.