Game 26: Ducks at Skeeters

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The Ducks have landed in the state where everything is bigger! That, of course, is Texas, where the Ducks open a four-game series tonight against the Sugar Land Skeeters. Following a 5-2 homestand that put the Ducks a season-high three games over .500 and ended with a season-long four-game winning streak, Long Island will look to continue their momentum during a seven-game road trip. This will be a crucial stretch for the Ducks, as the team will play four games far away from home and in a place that did not treat them kindly in 2013. Then, they’ll face a Lancaster Barnstormers team that currently holds the best record in the Atlantic League at 18-8. More on the upcoming road trip momentarily.

First, let’s focus on Long Island’s recently completed homestand. After the Ducks went 2-5 on their first homestand of the year, they completely flipped the script and played a much better seven-game stretch this time around. Things did not seem as positive after dropping two of three to the Camden Riversharks over the weekend. However, a four-game sweep of the Blue Crabs  turned things around. The Ducks used a combination of timely hitting and excellent pitching to win four straight over their former division rivals. Pitching was the key, as both the starters and relievers controlled Southern Maryland’s lineup and allowed the Ducks offense to outscore them 21-8 in the series. Here are the starter and reliever lines during the sweep:

Starters: 3-0, 1.67 ERA, 27.0 IP, 23 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 16 K
Relievers: 1-0, 0.53 ERA, 17.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K

Those are impressive numbers by the staff as a whole. The Ducks bullpen has been strong for the most part all year long, but the starting pitchers had struggled last weekend against Camden. Against Southern Maryland, the Ducks starters all turned in great efforts, and that has to put smiles on the faces of manager Kevin Baez and pitching coach Steve Foucault. Offensively, here were some of the key contributors during the series against the Blue Crabs:

Cody Puckett: 5-for-17, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
Adam Bailey: 6-for-11, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 SF
Lew Ford: 5-for-15, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
Fehlandt Lentini: 6-for-17, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 SB

The balanced attack helped the Ducks to their second consecutive series sweep of the Blue Crabs this year. In fact, if you go back to last season’s Liberty Division Championship Series, the Ducks have now won nine consecutive games over Southern Maryland. Previously, those two teams always beat up on each other, and nine straight wins seemed impossible. Now, the Ducks have made it a reality.

Tonight, the Ducks return to a stadium that was a “house of horrors” in 2013. That place is Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, where the Ducks and Skeeters kick off a four-game set at 8:05 eastern time. Last season, the Ducks were swept in both series played in the Lone Star State, as Sugar Land took four games to open the season and then swiped all six in mid-August. Ultimately, the Ducks got the last laugh when they won their second consecutive title, while the Skeeters were swept by the Somerset Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. However, the Ducks do not want to go 0-for-10 here again and will surely be looking to erase an 11-game losing streak in Texas this evening. They’ll also be facing a Skeeters team that has struggled out of the gate in trying to follow up their Atlantic League record 95-win season. Thurs far, Sugar Land is just 12-14 and sits six games behind Lancaster in the Freedom Division.

On paper, tonight’s matchup is a great one. Right-hander John Brownell, the ace of the Ducks staff a year ago, will face Skeeters righty and former big leaguer Matt Wright, who was also the leader of Sugar Land’s staff in 2013. However, both have gotten off to rough starts in 2014. Brownell is 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA through five starts and has allowed four runs or more, including a season-high eight on Sunday, in his last four outings. Wright is 1-4 with a 5.66 ERA in five starts this year and has lost two consecutive starts. The righty has also given up six runs in two separate outings this year and has given up 29 hits and 12 walks in 27 innings. Last year, Brownell posted a 3.90 ERA, set a franchise record with 133 strikeouts and led the Atlantic League with seven complete games. In 2013, Wright was 10-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 15 starts before earning a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both starters will look to regain their form tonight.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Skeeters: Tonight marks the first meeting of the season between the Ducks and Skeeters and the first of 10 meetings between the two at Constellation Field. Long Island and Sugar Land have played 40 games against each other all-time, with the Skeeters holding a 26-14 lead in the series and a 16-4 advantage at Constellation Field. Sugar Land won the 2013 season series 17-3 after the Ducks took the inaugural season series between the two 11-9 in 2012.

Offensive Machine: Lew Ford extended his on-base streak to 18 consecutive games with a single in the sixth inning on Thursday. That’s the longest by a Duck this season and the longest in the Atlantic League in 2014. Ford has also now hit safely in 10 consecutive games, which is one game shy of Cody Puckett’s season-long 11-game hit streak. Ford ranks second in the league in batting average (.371), hits (36) and on-base percentage (.431), third in RBI (22), runs (22), total bases (57) and fourth in slugging percentage (.588).

Cody Crushes One: Cody Puckett’s two-run homer on Thursday was his second of the season. His first came on Tuesday against the Blue Crabs and was also a two-run longball. Puckett has now collected at least one hit in 14 of his last 15 games and has reached base in all 15 of those games, giving him the second-longest on-base streak by a Duck this year behind Ford.

Bailey’s Blast: Adam Bailey’s solo homer on Thursday was his team-leading fifth of the season. It broke a tie with Ford for most on the Ducks. Bailey’s last homer came on May 9 at Lancaster. The outfielder has reached base in 11 of his last 12 games.

Countdown to 6 Million: Thursday’s crowd of 4,144 at Bethpage Ballpark increased the all-time attendance at the Duck Pond to 5,999,478, which is an Atlantic League record. Long Island is now just 522 fans away from reaching the magical 6 million fan mark and is scheduled to reach the milestone on Friday, May 30 when they host the Somerset Patriots.

Win Milestones: With Thursday’s win, the Ducks earned their 600th regular season home victory in franchise history. Long Island has an all-time record of 600-418 at Bethpage Ballpark. In addition, the Ducks are also 14 wins away from earning their 1,000th regular season victory in franchise history.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast live on Long Island’s home for news, traffic and weather, 103.9-FM LI News Radio. Live streaming audio will be available online by CLICKING HERE. Michael Polak will call the play-by-play. Fans can also watch live streaming video of the game online via ESPN 3 by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, here are tonight’s starting lineups for the series opener:

Ducks
#24 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#2   Cody Puckett – 2B
#20 Lew Ford – CF
#22 Joash Brodin – 1B
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#13 Adam Bailey – LF
#27 Keith Castillo – C
#5   Chris McClendon – 3B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS

#7   John Brownell – RHP

Skeeters
#41 Adam Godwin – CF
#5   Chase Lambin – 2B
#24 Delwyn Young – DH
#16 Travis Scott – C
#21 Nick Stavinoha – 1B
#7   Brandon Wood – 3B
#25 Neil Medchill – RF
#2   Michael Rockett – LF
#4   Dominic Ramos – SS

#34 Matt Wright – RHP

We’ll have more for you all night long from Sugar Land, Texas, so be sure to refresh this page often throughout for updates. The temperatures are in the 80’s, the sun is shining and it should be a great night for baseball!

UPDATE (7:11): We are underway at Constellation Field! Lew Ford now with a 19-game on-base streak and 11-game hitting streak! Singled in the first.

UPDATE (7:27): John Brownell leaves the bases loaded in the bottom of the first by striking out Brandon Wood! No score after one.

UPDATE (7:51): Good pitching matchup on paper and on the field. Brownell and Wright have held their opponent scoreless through three in Sugar Land.

UPDATE (8:18): Keith Castillo delivers a two-out, two-run double to right in the fourth and puts Long Island on top 2-0!

UPDATE (8:37): Brownell escapes trouble again in the fifth by freezing Travis Scott at home plate with a nasty breaking ball! 2-0 Ducks lead after five.

UPDATE (9:05): Long Island adds a run in the seventh as Dan Lyons scores from third on a throwing error by Wright. Ducks still threatening to add more.

UPDATE (9:16): A wild pitch by Ramon Delgado scores Lentini from third and gives the Ducks a 4-0 lead in the seventh!

UPDATE (9:31): John Brownell’s night is complete after seven shutout innings! He allowed eight hits and two walks and tied a season-high with seven strikeouts.

UPDATE (9:55): Full extension diving grab by Adam Bailey puts an exclamation on the final out! Ducks shut out the Skeeters 4-0 to take the series opener!

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Posted on May 23, 2014, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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