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At long last, Chiefs claim division title

Behind Sousa, Lively, Syracuse wins International League North crown
August 30, 2014

You might want to break out the silver to celebrate the Chiefs' division title.

Mitch Lively recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts over six innings Saturday as Triple-A Syracuse clinched the International League North Division crown with a 6-2 win at Pawtucket.

The victory came after the Chiefs fell short in clinching efforts on Thursday and Friday and closes a saga that spans 25 years, the last time they won a division championship. The club had not made the playoffs since 1998, so the celebration was befitting of a team with a lengthy drought.

"It's a big deal for us," Syracuse manager Billy Gardner said. "It was rowdy, we got all excited and popped some champagne. We had a really good time. It's been a long year. These guys worked their butts off."

Still, there's more work to be done.

"We have a couple of boxes we want to check," the 20-year veteran manager said. "We want to get to the [Governors' Cup] championship and ultimately the Triple-A Championship in Charlotte. They want to finish it off. It's been an outstanding group. They pull for each other, they compete and they really have a passion for winning."

After surrendering a two-run double in the first inning to Bryce Brentz, Lively (5-2) stifled the Red Sox. He retired 11 straight batters at one point and faced two over the minimum over his final five innings. He ended up allowing four hits and two walks.

"He stepped up huge, pitched an outstanding game," Gardner said. "Got a little out of synch in the first inning but got it together after that. He pitched really well in a big-game situation."

Steven Souza, the rehabbing Nationals' No. 5 prospect, drove in three runs, two on a fifth-inning double that gave the Chiefs a 5-2 lead. Considering the season the International League MVP has had, it's no surprise to find him in the middle of things offensively.

"He's had an outstanding year and had a big hit for us tonight," Gardner said. "He was a big part of what we've accomplished this year. He's an impact player. He can run, he can hit, he can play the outfield. He's a toolsy kind of guy."

Michael Taylor, the Nationals No. 3 prospect, homered and scored twice, while Greg Dobbs also went yard for Syracuse.

Red Sox No. 12 prospect Matt Barnes struck out 10 over seven innings for Pawtucket, which holds a 1 1/2-game lead over Rochester for the IL Wild Card with two to play.

Other clinchings:

Pacific Coast League
Memphis at New Orleans, suspended

With Nashville getting swept in a doubleheader, the Redbirds claimed the American Southern Division title, even though their game was suspended. Memphis was in last place as recently as July 3 but is 40-15 since then.

Pioneer League
Billings 10, Missoula 6

Aristides Aquino homered twice and drove in five runs as the Mustangs wrapped up the North Division second-half title. It was the fourth two-homer game of the season for Aquino, who was named a Pioneer League All-Star earlier in the day. Game story | Box score

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.