Saturday marked the midway mark of the Southern League second half, but the Chattanooga Lookouts already have been discussing the "P" word.
The Lookouts reached the playoffs last season with a strong second half, and they have put themselves in excellent position for a second straight appearance. Chattanooga topped the Birmingham Barons 11-7 Saturday night at AT&T Field to maintain its first-place standing in the North Division with a 21-14 record.
"We're making a good playoff run right now, which is what we did last year," outfielder Kyle Russell said. "This reminds me a lot of last year's team. Guys come out here and compete, and our hitting never gives up and our pitching never gives up. We come from behind, and that causes the good chemistry that we have in the locker room right now.
"Hopefully we can ride it out and see what happens."
The Lookouts haven't made consecutive playoff appearances since the 1995-96 seasons.
"It's the goal every year despite where you are in the standings," manager Carlos Subero said. "When you go through the first half and don't accomplish that, it's something that you keep in perspective for the second half. We're off to a good start, but the month of August will be what tells you how good you can be.
"Once there are 15 games left, you will have a better deal of what's going on."
Chattanooga built an 8-2 lead with a six-run second inning, which began by Birmingham starting pitcher Nevin Griffith walking Matt Wallach, Rafael Ynoa, Nick Buss and Luis Nunez. Griffith was then replaced by Nick McCully, who promptly walked C.J. Retherford before allowing a two-run single to Blake Smith and a two-run double to J.T. Wise.
Buss singled to left in Chattanooga's two-run first inning to reach base for the 28th straight game, a streak that began June 28.
The start of Saturday's game was delayed seven minutes by players from both bullpens, who stared each other down by the outfield wall. Birmingham's Cameron Bayne, who started Wednesday's game, and Chattanooga's Chris Withrow, who threw two innings of relief Friday, were ejected for their failure to leave the field.
Chattanooga begins a five-game series in Huntsville today at 5:03 Eastern, with Matt Magill (8-4, 4.09) scheduled to start the opener for the Lookouts.