Generals’ offense re-loads on the road

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Kelly Dugan spanked two home runs in the Generals’ first two road games at Montgomery. The Generals are 14-5 on the road this year. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

If you looked at the 24-19 Jackson Generals, your eyes would probably widen slightly in peeking at two stats in particular: comebacks, and home/road splits. The Generals, despite scoring the most runs of any team in the league (220), have not yet proven to be a team that rallies well.

Huh?

(Hang on, we’re getting there.)

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Homer-happy approach has Generals’ offense leading Southern League

 

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Rudy Flores went deep for the fourth time this year on Wednesday, helping the Generals beat Tennessee 2-0. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

The Jackson Generals reclaimed first place in the Southern League’s North Division on Wednesday, and they did it in familiar fashion. To begin, Kelly Dugan bopped a home run in the third inning off the scoreboard beyond right-center field. Four innings later, Rudy Flores whistled a shot down the right field line that cleared the wall by inches. They were the 24th and 25th solo homers that Jackson has propelled out of the park in their first 32 games, marking an even 40 blasts as a team in total.

There is a reason Baseball America’s first-month data says the Generals have the minor leagues’ premier offense so far: Jackson has hit the ball a long way, and they have done it a lot. You wouldn’t easily score 164 runs in 32 games without knowing how to dinger, and they do. Remember, the 2016 Mobile BayBears jacked a league-best 109 homers, and that team featured 10 position players who are now Generals.

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Series Preview: Generals’ May slate begins in Mobile

 

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Jamie Westbrook had a great week against Biloxi and Chattanooga, winning Southern League Player of the Week honors with 13 hits in 7 games.

 

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.

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Homestand primer: One-run-ready Generals host Chattanooga

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Gabriel Moya leads the Generals with 3 saves in 2017, playing a critical role in half of Jackson’s six one-run victories so far. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Show me a sports fan who doesn’t like a close game, and I’ll show you somebody who’s not being honest. (Spoiler alert: they’re the same person!)

Through 19 games so far in 2017, a single run has decided ten of the Jackson Generals’ contests, most of any team in the Southern League. Manager J.R. House squeezed four wins out of the team’s most recent series with Biloxi, with two of those wins coming 1-0 and 6-5 on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Generals won their second road series despite having two players, starting pitcher Brad Keller and catcher Michael Perez, sent to the seven-day disabled list.

On offense, the Generals’ run production continues to swing back and forth between a dripping faucet and a gushing fire-hose. Jason Camilli’s hitters mixed their three one-run games against the Shuckers with a pair of victories by six or more runs. Even the pitchers got in on the action at the plate, with a multi-hit game from Josh Taylor and a home run from Gabe Speier in the Generals’ first series batting their arms since 2006. The Generals (13-6) remain atop the Southern League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, though the team has hit just .279 over their last ten games.

From the hill, Doug Drabek’s young charges largely dominated the Southern League’s weakest hitting team, shutting out Biloxi 11-0 and 1-0 on consecutive days. Gabriel Moya’s consecutive saves have paced the Generals’ bullpen this week, which has stranded more than half of their inherited runners this season. With Keller on the DL, Ivan Pineyro stepped in to throw 6.2 innings with only one run allowed on Wednesday, posting his best Double-A outing since he pitched for the Tennessee Smokies in 2015.

Chattanooga (9-11), with whom Jackson split 25 games last year 14-11, is in a bit stronger position than Biloxi. According to MLB.com, the Lookouts feature six of the Minnesota Twins’ top-10 prospects, led by top overall Minnesota prospect Nick Gordon. The shortstop is tied for the Southern League batting average lead (.338) with Generals infielder Colin Walsh, and the Chattanooga pitching staff boasts two prospects, left-hander Tyler Jay and right-hander Kohl Stewart, who were first-round draft picks. The Lookouts are on a three-game slide, having dropped four of five against Tennessee after rainouts forced them to play a pair of double-headers on Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s a look at the pitching battles:

Thu., 4/27 6:05 pm CT vs. Chattanooga LHP Alex Young

(1-0, 1.84 ERA)

vs. RHP Paul Clemens

(1-0, 2.35 ERA)

Fri., 4/28 6:05 pm CT vs. Chattanooga RHP Taylor Clarke

(1-1, 3.38 ERA)

vs. TBA (Chattanooga Lookouts)
Sat., 4/29 6:05 pm CT vs. Chattanooga LHP Josh Taylor

(2-1, 2.25 ERA)

vs. RHP Kohl Stewart

(0-4, 6.46 ERA)

Sun., 4/30 2:05 pm CT vs. Chattanooga RHP Brooks Hall

(1-0, 5.06 ERA )

vs. LHP Matt Tracy

(1-1, 1.53 ERA)

Mon., 5/1 11:05 am CT vs. Chattanooga TBA vs. RHP Fernando Romero

(1-3, 3.44 ERA)

Thursday’s 6:05 pm CT opener is a Thrifty Thursday, with $2 deals on general admission tickets, hot dogs, popcorn, 24-oz. soda, 16-oz. beer, ice cream and Fun Zone access! Fans can get reserved seats for only $6! Friday is another Leaders Credit Union Food Truck Friday, and the Generals will once again play as the Hub City Hippos.

Saturday, April 29 is the second Fireworks Show of 2017! It’s MuscFest night, and lucky fans will have the opportunity to win tickets to various concerts! In addition, the first 500 families through the gate will take home a 2016 Southern League Championship blanket! The series wraps up with an Education Day, May 1! That Monday, students get in free with their class and lunch packs will be available for just $6!

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!

Series Preview: Generals bound for Biloxi

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Generals right-hander Brooks Hall was one of four Jackson starters to complete five innings in the series against Montgomery. Hall pitched for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2015 and 2016. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Shucks!

(You’re laughing, I can tell. No, really, I see you doing it. It’s all good!)

That one-syllable interjection kind of encapsulates both the week gone by and the week ahead for the Jackson Generals (9-5). For the second time in as many weeks, the Generals are leaving town to visit a coastal opponent, matched up with the Biloxi Shuckers (6-8), the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Because the Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks (Jackson’s new parent club) are both National League teams, Saturday will mark the first time the Jackson franchise has batted their pitchers in over a decade. On September 4, 2006, Chicago Cubs farmhand J.R. Mathes threw a complete game victory for the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx at Pringles Park, allowing one run to Chattanooga while batting three times with two strikeouts.

Two and a half hours to the east of Mathes’ complete game, a 26-year-old first baseman was busy collecting a pair of hits, scoring a run and driving in another to help the Round Rock Express get a 10-4 win in Nashville. J.R. House batted cleanup for the Express in that game, and while the Generals’ new manager would probably prefer his pitchers to hit more like him than Mathes, that’s far from his first concern at present.

Since their 53-run jetpack ride in the season-opening series with Birmingham, gravity has done a number on the Generals. They scored just 23 runs in a 4-1 series at Mobile, and the five-day crucible that followed against Montgomery gave Jackson a window to the opposite end of the spectrum. The Generals produced only 17 runs against the Biscuits, netting one victory in four games. Thursday night’s 9-5 loss was a difficult final note, going off key during an eight-run eighth inning for Montgomery. The fifth scheduled contested was postponed until May due to rain, denying the Generals a chance to end the series on a win.

To be fair, House’s team made many positive steps against Montgomery, a talented and detail-minded opponent. All of Jackson’s starting pitchers completed five innings, with none giving up more than three earned runs. Three of those arms (Josh Taylor, Brooks Hall, and Brad Keller) departed with a lead or while the game was tied; the fourth, Taylor Clarke, allowed just one earned run–on a bunt single–in a frustrating 1-0 loss. There was also a late-inning comeback, as the Generals rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the final two innings for a walk-off 8-7 win on Wednesday.

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Michael Perez has started behind the plate in eight of the Generals’ 14 games, bringing some offensive punch to the lower third of the Jackson lineup. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

The Generals’ search for consistency at the plate and in the bullpen looks like a continuing theme for the early part of the season. Montgomery scored nearly as many runs against the Generals’ relief corps (15) as the Generals scored overall in the series. Offensively, only three of the team’s twelve position players–Victor Reyes, Michael Perez, and reigning Southern League Player of the Week Colin Walsh–have batted over .300 in Jackson’s last 10 games.

The Biloxi series will be a stiff test for Jason Camilli’s hitters. The Shuckers’ staff features the second-best team ERA in the Southern League (2.59, as of Friday afternoon) and a league-leading 138 strikeouts, a rate of ten-and-a-half punch-outs every nine innings.

Generals right-hander Brooks Hall pitched for Biloxi in each of the last two seasons, so at least one General will recognize a few of the faces in the opposing dugout. Four Generals hitters on the active roster–Kevin Cron, Rudy Flores, Evan Marzilli, and Kevin Medrano–finished the 2016 season with on-base percentages of at least .300 against Biloxi, when each player suited up for the Mobile BayBears. Additionally, Jackson will be able to call on fresh muscle tomorrow night, with right-handed relief pitcher Daniel Gibson added to the roster on Friday afternoon in place of Drew Muren.

The pitching matchups for the series are listed below. You can hear each of the first four games of the series locally in Jackson on Radio Willie (94.1 and 94.3 FM, 1390 AM) and RadioWillie.com. Wednesday’s 10:35 am CT finale will be available only on the Jackson Generals Baseball Network, which you can find on the TuneIn Radio app (available for free download on most smartphones).

SATURDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch

Pitching Matchup: LHP Alex Young (1-0, 0.90 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Wilkerson (2-1, 2.30 ERA)

SUNDAY: 1:05 pm CT first pitch

Pitching Matchup: RHP Taylor Clarke (1-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Jorge Lopez (1-1, 2.57 ERA)

MONDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: LHP Josh Taylor (1-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Williams (0-0, 1.13 ERA)

TUESDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: RHP Brooks Hall (0-0, 8.10 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Ortiz (0-2, 4.50 ERA)

WEDNESDAY: 10:35 am CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: RHP Brad Keller (2-0, 1.20 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Jungmann (0-1, 4.50 ERA)

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!

The O-Dog and a Walk-Off

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Kelly Dugan was the walk-off hero against Montgomery. (Cody Cunningham)

The Generals had their first rainout of 2017 Friday night, so my hope of a season without a doubleheader was dashed. The team’s finale against Montgomery was postponed, so the teams will make it up when Jackson visits Alabama’s capital next month.

The Biscuits had taken three of four prior to Friday, giving them just one fewer win against the Generals in the series alone compared to last season as a whole. Jackson was a somewhat preposterous 16-4 versus Montgomery in 2016, and that’s before winning three of four in the playoffs to earn a spot in the Southern League Championship Series.  Continue reading

Series Preview: Montgomery visits the league-leading Generals

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Generals reliever Yuhei Nakaushiro threw 4.1 innings in relief over the Generals’ trip to Mobile, earning a win and a save in the process. Jackson leads the Southern League North Division at 8-2. (Photo credits for this article: Cody Cunningham)

Did somebody say “Biscuits”, or was that my stomach growling? Either way, it’s breakfast time, and we’re here to bring you a first look at the Generals’ second home series of the year!

After ten games in 2017, the Jackson Generals (8-2) hold the high ground in the Southern League’s North Division as they await the arrival of the Montgomery Biscuits (5-5). New manager J.R. House has found multiple ways to coax wins out of his team so far, and that’s in part because the roster has already changed.

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