May began on a Monday for the Generals, and it felt like one, too. Following a 56-degree first-pitch temperature under a cloudy Jackson sky, Double-A’s Diamondbacks dropped a 5-2 decision against the Chattanooga Lookouts, losing the series 3-2. The chilly finale marked only the second time in 24 games that the Generals had been defeated on back-to-back days, and they can still count the Southern League’s best winning percentage among their first-month accomplishments. However, the balancing act continues for first-year-at-Double-A manager J.R. House, whose roster has been hamstrung lately by injuries and, consequently, the continuing quest for consistency.
The series against Chattanooga revealed both resilience and rawness from the Generals’ lineup. At the plate and in the field, Jackson began the series down two of their regulars, with shortstop Kevin Medrano and catcher Michael Perez on the seven-day disabled list.
Catcher Jose Queliz and infielder Travis Denker were activated from the disabled list to fill in, and both homered in their first 2017 starts. Debut dingers notwithstanding, to expect Queliz and Denker to replicate Medrano’s outstanding three weeks at the plate, as well as Perez’s early success against right-handed pitching, would have been asking a lot.
The departure of talented right-hander Grant Sides–due to a richly deserved and long-awaited first-time promotion to Triple-A Reno–put the bullpen at a deficit as well. Ivan Pineyro, following an excellent start last Wednesday at Biloxi, was moved into a stop-gap relief role and ruled unavailable for last Thursday’s opener vs. Chattanooga. That adjustment did not come without growing pains.
The Generals’ affinity for one-run games in the past month has been well documented, but their league-leading offensive production owes a lot to seven wins in April that featured eight or more runs. In the month-ending five-game set with Chattanooga, the Generals plated a combined 17 runs on 26 hits in their two victories. Conversely, they supplied only 11 runs in their three defeats, averaging roughly five fewer hits per contest in the losses.
Timely hitting was particularly hard to come by. Jackson managed just a .176 batting average with runners in scoring position across four of the five games in the series. Even when you lead the league in slugging percentage, a low conversion rate in situational offense can be a high hurdle, and it’s part of the reason the Generals dropped their second home series after winning two of the first three games.
In four of the five clashes with Chattanooga, the Generals were ahead or tied on the scoreboard after five innings of play. The home side won only half of those games. The Jackson bullpen pitched a little more than one-third of the series’ 45 innings (17.1), but they allowed half of Chattanooga’s 22 earned runs, accounting for a 5.78 relief ERA.
By comparison, that’s well more than double the ERA of Generals relievers in the four-win series against Biloxi (2.47). Coincidentally, the Jackson ‘pen also accounted for 11 Chattanooga walks. Not all of the free passes came around to score, but extending a late-game inning even one additional at-bat here or there can have a cumulative effect over time.
All those things aside, there are positive signs for the Generals as they revisit Mobile.
Jamie Westbrook became the reigning Southern League Player of the Week on Monday, having throttled a season-opening 6-for-50 slump by mashing 13 hits in his last seven April games. Westbrook’s fast break has featured a three-doubles-and-one-triple performance at Biloxi, as well as his first home run of the year against Chattanooga.
Victor Reyes now holds the pole position in the league’s batting average race at .365. The young Venezuelan was named by the Diamondbacks’ front office as Jackson’s position player of the month for his efforts.
Joining Reyes in April honors is Gabriel Moya, his countryman. Moya was highlighted as Jackson’s pitcher of the month, having saved four games while racking up the third-best strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in the circuit (15.75).
The Mobile team that the Generals faced in their first road series of the year is not the one they’ll face now. After dropping four games to Jackson the first time around, the BayBears won eight of their next eleven, though they most recently lost four straight at Jacksonville.
Mobile’s chest of arms has been supplemented since these teams last met. A pair of the promotions, plus a trade between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Baltimore Orioles, has provided Mobile with three starting pitchers that Jackson did not face during their initial Alabama adventure. Here’s the pitching schedule:
**UPDATE**: Wednesday night’s scheduled 6:35 pm CT start has been postponed due to bad weather. A double-header is scheduled to begin Thursday at 5:05 pm CT. Follow @JacksonGenerals on Twitter for further updates.
Thu., 5/4 5:05 pm CT at Mobile
LHP Alex Young (1-0, 1.83 ERA) vs. RHP Parker Bridwell (0-0, 7.71 ERA)
Thu., 5/4 [:30 after G1] at Mobile
RHP Ivan Pineyro (1-0, 2.35 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Carpenter (1-2, 3.49 ERA)
Fri., 5/5 7:05 pm CT at Mobile
RHP Taylor Clarke (2-1, 2.86 ERA) vs. RHP Grayson Long (0-1, 2.45 ERA)
Sat. 5/6 7:05 pm CT at Mobile
LHP Josh Taylor (3-1, 2.42 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Kipper (2-1, 1.74 ERA)
Sun. 5/7 2:05 pm CT at Mobile
RHP Brooks Hall (1-1, 6.43 ERA) vs. RHP Jake Jewell (0-2, 5.25 ERA)
The Generals return home to West Tennessee Monday to kick off a ten-game homestand. The first five are against the Tennessee Smokies before the team welcomes the Pensacola Blue Wahoos to town.
The team will host a Sarge-themed weekend starting Thursday, May 11 with his birthday celebration! It’s also Thrifty Thursday, featuring $2 deals on general admission tickets, hot dogs, popcorn, 24-oz. Pepsi products, 16-oz. beer, ice cream and fun zone wristbands!
On Friday, May 12 versus the Smokies and Saturday, May 13 versus Pensacola, the Generals will host Sarge’s Carnival with Postgame Fireworks both nights! At both games, we’ll have carnival rides in the Fun Zone for the kids to enjoy! Friday’s Fireworks are presented by Tennessee Health Management, while MobileNation is sponsoring Saturday’s Show! Friday is also a Leaders Credit Union Food Truck Friday, with the Generals playing as the Hub City Hippos!
On Saturday, the first 1,000 fans through the gate will get baseballs autographed by current Generals!
Make sure to get your tickets now to see the 20th season of professional baseball in Jackson, and the first for the team as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks! Call the team at (731) 988.5299, stop by The Ballpark or go online to jacksongeneralsbaseball.com to secure your seats now!