JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Pensacola Blue Wahoos made sure it decisively won its fourth consecutive Southern League half.
Both second baseman Alex Blandino and catcher Adrian Nieto clobbered home runs, as Pensacola downed the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, 9-3, in the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader Friday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Blue Wahoos fell in the second game to the Jumbo Shrimp, 1-0.
Pensacola's victory in the first game was historic. It ensured that the Blue Wahoos joined the Tennessee Smokies, who also won four consecutive halves from 2009 to 2011. There was no celebration after the first game just high fives as the team remained focused on playing the second game of the seven-inning doubleheader.
Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said he was pleased with his team.
"It's great," he said. "The players deserved it they've played extremely well all year. They've been in first place every day but about six. Just a terrific performance. Again, good pitching and we got some really timely hitting in that first game."
Cincinnati Reds right-hander Brandon Finnegan made his second MLB rehab assignment for Pensacola with the first half title on the line. He's recovering from a strained left trapezius, which he sustained April 15.
The 24-year-old threw four scoreless innings, allowed one hit and struck out four Jacksonville hitters Friday. In his two starts for the Blue Wahoos, Finnegan has thrown seven scoreless innings, given up two hits, walked one and struck out five.
Pensacola split Friday's doubleheader and is 40-28 on the year. The second place Biloxi Shuckers (34-31) scheduled seven-inning doubleheader Friday with the Mobile BayBears was rained out.
Before his injury, Finnegan, a first round pick in 2014, was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and had 14 strikeouts in 10 innings. In his three seasons with the Reds, he is 13-13 in 38 starts with a 3.94 ERA.
Pensacola middle reliever Ariel Hernandez earned the victory in one inning of relief of Finnegan and is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA.
Nieto hit his third homer of the season, a solo shot to left center field. He was 3-4 in the game with two runs scored. Blandino smashed a two-out, three-run bomb in the fifth inning and now has 30 RBIs. He is second on the team behind right fielder Aristides Aquino, who singled in a run in the first game Friday and has 34 this season.
In the second game, Pensacola ace Tyler Mahle started the game. He pitched three innings and gave up the only run in the game on four hits and struckout three. Mahle took the loss and is 7-3 with a 1.59 ERA in the first half of the season.
Mahle gave up a two-out triple to right field to Jacksonville third baseman Brian Anderson in the bottom of the third innings. The extra-base hit scored Jumbo Shrimp pitcher Mike Kickham, who had singled to center, for a 1-0 lead. Kickham earned the win and is 4-3 with a 2.26 ERA. He is also 5-13 at the plate, hitting .385.
Tickets to the 2017 Southern League All-Star Game are on sale now! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com or visiting the Box Office. Orders can also be placed over the phone by calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos andtwitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
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