While Frederick Keys manager Orlando Gomez would have preferred clinching a playoff spot with a win, getting to the postseason is more than enough for him.
The Keys clinched the Carolina League Northern Division first-half title Saturday when Wilmington lost at Winston-Salem.
"It's nice to win to get in and everything, but at least knowing that right now we've clinched, the kids can go in and relax," Gomez said. "Today, we were a little tight and we played our worst game. The kids were looking forward to winning."
The Keys (37-26) have dropped two in a row, losing to Salem, 8-1, on Saturday. They had a chance to clinch Friday but squandered an eighth-inning lead for the first time this season. Still, Gomez credited his bullpen for much of the first-half success.
"I'm not going to point the finger at one player because everyone does something to win, but I have to give credit to the bullpen," he said. "Last night was the first night that we lost after leading after seven. Most of the guys in the bullpen have been very good. I lost Brandon Cooney to Double-A, who was our stopper, but I've got a kid named Jose Diaz who has stepped up with nine saves."
Gomez is in his first season with Frederick, having spent the previous two years at the helm of Class A Delmarva. He recently recorded his 900th managerial and said he believes the relationships he developed with players last year has helped this summer.
"It's a big help because they know how I do things and I know how they do things," Gomez explained. "I see the big improvement from last year to this year. I have two good coaches in Denny Hocking and Blaine Boyer. They give you a lot of information and they help a lot."
The Keys will make their first postseason appearance since 2007, when they also captured the first-half crown en route to a Carolina League championship. Frederick finished with a losing record each of the last two seasons, however.
"We have good chemistry, we get along and there's a lot of hard work," Gomez said. "They want to get better, they come to the park early to work and they ask questions. Mentally, they are ready and they try to learn how to approach the game.
"Everyone has put something in. The key is that everyone played well."
The Keys have just one representative, shortstop Greg Miclat, on the Carolina League All-Star team. He's second on the team with a .384 on-base percentage, whlie first baseman Joe Mahoney leads Frederick with 37 RBIs.
The Keys can thank Winston-Salem's Justin Greene for their playoff berth. He hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning after Wilmington used three infield singles to tie the game in the top half.