The Dunedin Blue Jays knew they had two chances Thursday to clinch the Florida State League's North Division title Thursday. They only needed one.
As the team has done all season, Toronto's Class A Advanced affiliate relied on dominant pitching and timely hitting to sweep a doubleheader with visiting Daytona and book a place in September's postseason.
Game 1 starter Matt Boyd (5-1) turned in a two-hit complete-game gem and right fielder Marcus Knecht homered and plated three runs to lead the Blue Jays to a 5-1 win.
Then Toronto's No. 4 prospect Daniel Norris (6-0) allowed one hit over five scoreless innings and Knecht went yard again to wrap up a 5-2 victory in the nightcap.
"It was really nice because we have worked so hard since we left Spring Training," Dunedin manager Omar Malave said. "A lot of times when you have 44 wins, you'd think you would be able to clinch before today.
"[Matt and Daniel] are young kids with great stuff and when I saw we had them on the schedule to pitch these two games, I knew we had a good chance. Both guys pitched really well."
The Blue Jays have relied on dominant pitching all season, so it maybe comes as no surprise that strong efforts from the starting rotation helped them punch their tickets to the playoffs this fall.
Dunedin ranks first with a 2.55 team ERA, a full run below the circuit average. The pitching staff has recorded a circuit-high 544 strikeouts and issued a league-low 137 walks.
Leading the way on the mound has been the duo of second-rounder Norris and Taylor Cole. Southpaw Norris lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.22 in Thursday's win, capping a first half in which he ranked third on the circuit with 76 strikeouts. Cole is 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA and FSL-best 95 punchouts.
Offensively, the team has maintained a balanced approach to put up runs. Catcher Derrick Chung's .320 average is sixth on the circuit and No. 18 prospect and Gold Glove outfielder Dalton Pompey has a league-best 24 steals to accompany a .462 slugging percentage, which ranks fifth. When guys at the top of the order get on base, nobody has been better at bringing them home than first baseman K.C Hobson, whose 57 RBIs are six more than any other player in the league.
"The pitching is the one thing that took us to to where we could clinch, no doubt about it," Malave said. "Boyd and Norris and Cole and [Ben] White and [Jesse] Hernandez and [Kendall] Graveman, all those guys pitched really well.
"Pompey has been a nice surprise for us and he's developed as a good hitter. Chung has done a great job behind the plate and Hobson has seven home runs. When they get on base, we have a good chance to score some runs. We don't have all of the prospects in the league, but they all play like prospects."
In other clinching action:
Potomac 3, Winston-Salem 2
Rehabbing Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez struck out seven batters over four one-run innings and Oscar Tejeda smacked his 10th homer of the year as the P-Nats sealed the Carolina League North first-half crown with a 3-2 win over Winston-Salem.
Gonzalez, who allowed eight runs over 3 2/3 innings in his first game back against Wilmington on Friday, yielded two hits and walked four batters. Potomac right fielder Randolph Oduber went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored and designated hitter Jeff Kobernus swiped two bases and scored once from the top of the lineup. Game story