Game 6: Ducks at Blue Crabs

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Managers and coaches will often tell you that hitting tends to come along a bit slower than pitching early in the season. Aside from cooler temperatures and more windy days, it can frequently take hitters a few weeks to get going after finally seeing live pitching during game action. That could not be more true in the Atlantic League, where hitters only have 10 or so days of Spring Training and a couple of exhibition games to face pitchers during a game.

The Ducks offense thus far has been fairly quiet through the first five games of the year, but they hadn’t been completely stymied until Tuesday night in Southern Maryland. Right-hander Jake Hale was dominant for the Blue Crabs, limiting Long Island to just three hits and a walk in seven innings of work. He didn’t allow a batter to reach base until Cody Puckett singled to right with one out in the fifth and didn’t give up two baserunners in an inning until the seventh. However, after Ford and Morales singled back-to-back in that inning, Puckett lined into an inning-ending double play that squashed the rally. Southern Maryland’s bullpen duo of former Met Fernando Nieve and former Padre Erik Hamren nailed down the save to even the series at one apiece.

Eric Niesen made his first start of the year in his new role and found a way to limit the damage to just two runs. The left-hander had some trouble with his control during the early going, allowing two walks, hitting two batters and throwing two wild pitches. First start jitters could have played a factor, but Niesen did not have his best stuff on Tuesday. The fact that he held Southern Maryland to just two runs in five innings is a testament to his ability to avoid big meltdowns on the mound. Kevin Baez also had the opportunity to see Matt Soren and Frank DeJiulio, Jr. pitch, the last two members of his bullpen who had yet to throw. Soren allowed a run on a hit and a walk in one-third of an inning, and DeJiulio, Jr. yielded two walks but no runs in one inning. Patrick Crider was the highlight of the pitching staff last night, tossing one and two-thirds innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out two.

CLICK HERE to view Tuesday’s box score

So, that sets us up for the swing game in the four-game series on Wednesday night. The Ducks certainly want this game to guarantee themselves a winning road trip to open the year, and the Blue Crabs want it equally as bad to guarantee that they avoid a losing homestand to begin the season. Long Island will start the only pitcher that has yet to throw for the Ducks this season, and that is right-hander Mickey Jannis. The Nevada native is beginning his third season in the Atlantic League, having previously pitched with the Bridgeport Bluefish and Southern Maryland. Jannis was successful with the Blue Crabs in 10 starts last year (see his numbers in the notes section below). Prior to that, he began the year with Lake Erie in the Frontier League and was 3-4 with a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts. Jannis throws a knuckleball, but it is not the focal point of his arsenal like many other knuckleball pitchers. He prefers to mix it in with his other pitches.

On the other side will be left-hander Brian Burres, who makes his second start of the season. In his debut, the southpaw pitched five innings and allowed just one run on four hits while striking out six in a 6-1 loss to the Somerset Patriots on Opening Night. Southern Maryland’s bullpen fell apart at the end of that game. Burres was flat out dominant for the Blue Crabs in 2014, going 3-2 with a 1.64 ERA and 31 strikeouts in nine starts. He was signed in June by the Colorado Rockies and went on to pitch in 15 games (13 starts) with Colorado Springs. He struggled there, however, going 1-6 with a 6.75 ERA and 57 strikeouts. Burres was 0-1 in two starts against the Ducks in 2014 but had a 1.93 ERA, yielding four runs (two earned) on 12 hits and four walks with five strikeouts in nine and one-third innings.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Blue Crabs: Tonight’s game marks the 140th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Blue Crabs. Southern Maryland currently leads the series 76-63 and has a 38-28 record at Regency Furniture Stadium. Tonight is also the third of 20 scheduled games between the two teams in 2015. The series is currently tied at one. The Ducks won the 2014 series 12-8 and went 7-3 at Southern Maryland.

Oh, What a Relief They Are: Long Island’s bullpen pitched a total of three innings of relief on Tuesday, giving up a run on two hits and four walks with two strikeouts. Thus far, Ducks relievers have given up just five runs (four earned) in 16 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA. In addition, they’ve yielded just 12 hits and seven walks while striking out 16.

The Streak Continues: Cody Puckett extended his on-base streak to five consecutive games with a single in the fifth inning on Tuesday. Dating back to the 2014 season, the infielder has reached base safely in 16 consecutive games. Puckett had the longest on-base streak by a Duck and fourth longest in the Atlantic League a year ago at 30 games from May 6 to June 6.

Rotation Addition: Tuesday’s start was Eric Niesen’s first as a Duck since August 14, 2012 when he made a spot start in Southern Maryland against the Blue Crabs. In his last two starts, he has allowed just two runs in eight innings of work (2.25 ERA). He has given up eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in the two starts.

Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine: Mickey Jannis’ first start as a Long Island Duck will come against his former team. The right-hander made 10 starts with Southern Maryland a year ago, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.37 ERA and one complete game. The knuckleballer was even better at Regency Furniture Stadium, going 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and holding opponents to a .248 batting average.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast with live streaming audio on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Fans can follow all the action with live streaming audio online by CLICKING HERE. Michael Polak will call the play-by-play. Fans can also follow a pitch-by-pitch account of the game via Pointstreak’s GameLive application by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Ducks
#44 Bryan Sabatella – RF
#29 Evan Crawford – DH
#20 Lew Ford – CF
#2   Cody Puckett – 3B
#33 Jon Griffin – 1B
#24 Mike Blanke – C
#11 Reegie Corona – 2B
#40 Anthony Vega – LF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS

#6   Mickey Jannis – RHP

Blue Crabs
#3   Antone DeJesus
#4   Casey Frawley – SS
#8   Craig Maddox – C
#15 Cyle Hankerd – LF
#42 Daryle Ward – 1B
#1   Fred Lewis – RF
#24 Casey Stevenson – 2B
#6   Jamar Walton – DH
#17 Renny Osuna – 3B

#12 Brian Burres – LHP

We’ll have updates for you all game long as the Ducks and Blue Crabs battle to get a leg up in the four-game series. You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (7:12): The action has begun in Southern Maryland, as Bryan Sabatella opens the game with an infield single!

UPDATE (7:31): TOP 2: Ducks open the scoring as Cody Puckett launches a mammoth solo homer off the roof of the clubhouses beyond the left field wall!

UPDATE (8:05): END 4: Mickey Jannis strikes out the side in a dominant fourth inning! Ducks still maintaining a 1-0 lead over the Blue Crabs!

UPDATE (8:20): TOP 5: Long Island doubles their lead to two on a two-out RBI single to center field by Evan Crawford, his first RBI of the year!

UPDATE (8:33): New pitcher for the Ducks as Tommy Organ comes in for the sixth. Final line for Jannis: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

UPDATE (8:58): END 7: Organ and Amalio Diaz each toss a 1-2-3 inning! We go to the eighth with the Ducks still leading 2-0!

UPDATE (9:10): TOP 8: First hit and RBI as a Duck for Mike Blanke, as he singles through the left side with two outs! 3-0 Long Island!

UPDATE (9:19): END 8: Another scoreless inning of relief from Hector Ambriz! Ducks pitchers had retired 17 consecutive batters before a two-out single by Osuna!

UPDATE (9:36): FINAL: The Ducks record their first shutout of 2015 and return the favor with a 3-0 victory, holding the Blue Crabs to just three hits! Ducks pitcher retired 21 of the last 22 Southern Maryland batters!

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Posted on April 29, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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