The Blue Wahoos will end another superlative-filled, regular-season on Sunday before chasing a chance to repeat as Southern League champions.
They began a homestand Tuesday at Blue Wahoos Stadium against the Mississippi Braves on a seven-game win streak, highlighted by a week-long, six-game road sweep of the Rocket City Trash Pandas in Madison, Alabama.
The streak ended Tuesday with a 5-4 extra-inning loss. The Blue Wahoos, who the first half South Division, have gone 15-6 since breaking a losing streak in mid-August.
After blasting four home runs in Sunday’s 9-5 win at Rocket City – the Los Angeles Angels affiliate -- the Blue Wahoos (76-54) have now matched their second-most wins in franchise history. The team’ remarkable road record of 42-25 this season is the best in team history and by-far the best in the league.
Last Saturday, popular manager Kevin Randel picked up his 200th win as Pensacola’s manager in three seasons. Pat Kelly won a club record 218 games in three seasons (2015-17) with the Blue Wahoos when the team was a Cincinnati Reds affiliate.
But in Randel’s first season (2021) as Blue Wahoos skipper, the team played just 111 games in a season that started late and had nine games cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus.
Randel now has 520 wins in his managerial career, all with the Miami Marlins organization. In all three seasons in Pensacola, his teams have won with strong pitching, defense and resiliency each time. And that has occurred with numerous movements of top pitchers to higher levels, headlined by Eury Perez jumping straight to the Marlins and becoming one of the best rookie pitchers in Major League Baseball.
This season has also featured a league-best 160 home runs hit by the Blue Wahoos and their 1100 hits are second-most in the league.
This week, the team will be monitoring the Montgomery-Biloxi series that will determine the Blue Wahoos first-round playoff opponent. The Biscuits are up by 1.5 games and if they hold on, it will be a playoff rematch of the 2022 divisional series.
The Blue Wahoos won a franchise best 10 games this season, then followed later with a team-tying nine consecutive defeats.
FAVORITE OPPONENT – The Blue Wahoos will face the M-Braves for the fifth time (18 total games) this season and third meeting in Pensacola.
The M-Braves now have former Florida Gators star pitcher Hudson Waldrep, who was the Atlanta Braves’ first-round selection in July in the Major League Baseball Draft. Waldrep is scheduled to pitch later in the week. He joined the M-Braves on Aug. 29 after rising from both Class A levels in Augusta, Ga. and Rome, Ga. following his season with the Gators and College World Series appearance.
Waldrep, 21, is a 6-foot-2 righthander, who graduated from Thomasville (Ga.) High, located 30 miles north of Tallahassee. He has made six starts in the minor leagues with 1.71 ERA -- all no decisions -- because he has not pitched beyond four innings in any start. The Braves are keeping him on a pitch limit and most of his starts have been three innings.
POPULAR PROMOTIONS: The Blue Wahoos saved two of the season’s most popular giveaway promotions for this final series. On Friday, the “Beach Towel Giveaway,” sponsored by Florida Blue, will be available to the first 1,000 fans through the stadium gates. On Saturday, the return of the “Diamond Dig” sponsored by Bere’ Jewelers will occur after the fireworks show. Fans will be allowed onto the infield to dig for a fake diamond that Bere’ Jewelers will then provide the winner with an authentic design diamond ring at the store.
On Sunday, the Blue Wahoos have partnered with the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation at NAS-Pensacola to hold a commemorative POW-MIA day. The first 500 fans will receive a commemorative T-Shirt provided by the museum foundation. This year is the 50th anniversary of the return of U.S. POWs from Vietnam and the end of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The museum has a special, new display inside its building to commemorate and honor U.S. POWs and MIA in wars. The museum foundation also sponsored the Ted Williams Bobblehead to honor the Hall of Fame star who earned his U.S. Marine Corps wings at NAS-Pensacola during World War II.
PLAYOFFS AHEAD: The Blue Wahoos will open the 2023 Southern League playoffs on Sept. 19 on the road against either the Biloxi Shuckers or Montgomery Biscuits. Those two teams play each other this week in Biloxi to decide the second half South Division winner. The Biscuits had a 1.5 game lead on the Shuckers heading into Tuesday’s series opener.
Following Game 1 of the divisional series, there will be a travel day on Sept. 20 and the Blue Wahoos will host Game 2 on Sept 21 in Pensacola and the deciding Game 3, if necessary, on Sept. 22. The winner advances to the championship series that begins Sept. 24. All playoff games at Blue Wahoos Stadium will have a $20 advance purchase ticket ($22 day of game) that will enable fans to sit in the best available seats, plus receive a free hot dog, chips and a drink for the one price.
THIS WEEK: The Blue Wahoos end the regular-season with their fifth meeting against the M-Braves, the Atlanta Braves affiliate. The Blue Wahoos won five of the six games in the teams’ first meeting on May 2-7 in Pensacola. But the season series is tied 12-12 with the M-Braves going 4-2 in the past two meetings.
The M-Braves have six of the Atlanta Braves top 30 prospects, led by former Florida Gators’ star Hurston Waldrep and No. 14 rated Luis De Avilia, a lefthanded pitcher who is set to start Thursday’s game. The M-Braves lead the Southern League in team pitching and rank No. 3 among the 30 Double-A teams with a combined 3.98 earned run average. The M-Braves have also yielded the fewest home runs in Double-A with 94.
The M-Braves recorded walk-off wins in four of their last 11 games, including twice last week in a series win against North Division second-half winner Tennessee Smokies.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Final Regular-Season Series
WHO: Mississippi Braves vs. Blue Wahoos
WHEN: Tuesday Thru Sunday.
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium
GAMETIMES: Tuesday thru Friday games begin at 6:35 p.m, Saturday at 6:05 p.m. Sunday’s game is at 4:05 p.m.
TICKETS: Available online at www.bluewahoos.com or by visiting the stadium box office during business hours.
INFO: (850) 934-8444.
PROMOTIONS: Tuesday: Doggone Tuesday: Tickets are $18 for all available seats, which includes a hot dog, chips and a drink and people are allowed to bring their beloved dogs to the game in promotion sponsored by Anderson Subaru and Pepsi.
Wednesday: Winning Wednesday: Baseball bingo for prizes sponsored by Hill-Kelly Dodge Chrysler Jeep.
Thursday: Mullet Thursday: The Blue Wahoos take on their alter identity as the Pensacola Mullets with the a uniform and name change. Plus alcoholic drink specials throughout the game at various locations. for those of legal age.
Friday: Giveaway Friday: The final giveaway of season is the popular Blue Wahoos beach towel sponsored by Florida Blue.
Saturday: Fireworks. Diamond Dig Night: The final post-game fireworks show, sponsored by Bere Jewelers. Also, the second annual “Diamond Dig” where fans will be allowed on the infield after the fireworks show to dig for a diamond that can be attached to a ring provided by Bere Jewelers.
Sunday: Family Sunday: The final regular season home game will allow children 12-under to run the bases following the game and families to toss soft baseballs in promotion by WKRG-News 5. It is also the POW-MIA commemoration day sponsored by the National Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.
LIVE AUDIO: A live broadcast of each game will begin five minutes before first pitch on www.bluewahoos.com and the MiLB First Pitch App.
LIVE VIDEO STREAM – A live video broadcast is available through Bally Live and MiLB TV (subscription required).
SOUTHERN LEAGUE STANDINGS
(Prior to games on Sept, 12)
Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs)-- 70-61 overall, (34-29 second half)
Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds) -- 68-63, (30-33)
Rocket City Trash Pandas (LA Angels) – 57-75, (26-37)
Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox) – 47-85 (22-41)
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Miami Marlins) – 76-54, (35-27)
Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays) – 76-56, (40-23)
Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee Brewers) – 72-59, (38-24)
Mississippi Braves (Atlanta Braves) – 59-72, (26-37)
NOTE – Chattanooga was first half champ in North Division, Tennessee has won second half), Pensacola was first half champ in South Division.