Game 80: Ducks vs. Patriots


Saturday’s middle game of the series between the Ducks and the Patriots was setting up to be a script straight out of Hollywood. The odds were stacked against the home team, as they fell behind 4-0 early in the game against one of the top pitchers in the Atlantic League this season. However, they roared all the way back and eventually took the lead in the eighth inning on local product Steve McQuail’s second home run of the night. It appeared as though he would collect the game-winning hit for a second consecutive night. Unfortunately, the story did not finish with the happy ending that a sellout crowd of 6,867 was hoping for. The Patriots rallied for three runs in the ninth inning off of Ducks closer Ryan Kussmaul and won the game 7-5 to even the series at a game apiece.

Somerset put the Ducks in the early four-run hole thanks to a big opening inning against Ian Marshall. The first four batters of the frame reached on two singles and two walks. Up 1-0, Greg Hopkins chopped a grounder to third that Cody Puckett threw home to try and get the force out. However, his throw sailed over the head of Mike Blanke, and two runs came across on the error. A sac fly followed off the bat of Mat Gamel to increase the advantage to four. Somerset would collect two more singles off of Marshall before James Skelton’s double play grounder ended the long frame. However, Marshall would rebound from that point on and turn in a quality start. He threw five scoreless innings from the second through the sixth, allowing just two singles and a walk in that span.

Despite trailing early, the Ducks did what they’ve done all year: fight back to tie the game and eventually take the lead. Long Island threatened all night against Bierman, and after missing out on an opportunity in the first, they cut the deficit in half in the second. Following a single by Mike Blanke, McQuail launched a two-run home run to the deepest part of the park in left-center field. His third longball in as many games made it a 4-2 ballgame. Bierman settled down over the next three innings, but he surrendered a run in the sixth on a two-out error by Robert Andino after a balk moved two runners into scoring position. Paul Smyth came on to pitch the seventh with a 4-3 lead, but after retiring the first two batters, Randy Ruiz launched a mammoth solo homer to left to tie the ballgame at four. The following inning, with Anthony Collazo on the bump, McQuail hit his second dinger of the night with an even deeper blast to left that erupted the sellout crowd. Long Island had rallied from 4-0 down to take the lead, but unfortunately, it was short lived.

Kussmaul came on for the second consecutive night trying to earn the save, but he could not seal the deal. Lefty hitter Nate Spears opened the inning with a single to left, and following a pop out by Robert Andino, lefty James Skelton singled to right. Kussmaul answered back with a strikeout of Vinny Zarrillo for the second out, and that set up a battle with All-Star Aharon Eggleston. The Ducks’ closer did not get the calls on a couple of close pitches, which eventually led to ejections of pitching coach Marty Janzen and manager Kevin Baez for arguing balls and strikes, but he was able to work the count to 2-2. After a fastball that missed low and inside, Eggleston flared a 3-2 pitch down the left field line that landed fair by about a foot and plated two runs. The double gave Somerset a 6-5 lead, and David Vidal followed with a RBI double to center for an added insurance run. The storybook ending the Ducks were hoping for was unable to come to fruition.

CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from the dramatic ballgame
CLICK HERE to watch postgame interviews with Kevin Baez and Steve McQuail
CLICK HERE to view Saturday’s box score

For the rubber game of the three-game series, the Ducks will send Darin Downs to the mound to make his first start at home with the Flock. His debut with the team came on Tuesday in Lancaster when he pitched three scoreless innings in Long Island’s 5-0 victory over the Barnstormers. The southpaw allowed just one hit, a single to Mike McDade, and two walks while striking out three. He threw 29 of his 51 pitches for strikes. His pitch count will likely be a little higher this time around, but he probably won’t be able to go too deep into the ballgame as he continues to get stretched out. Downs is a former Major Leaguer who spent two seasons with the Detroit Tigers (2012-13) and one with the Houston Astros (2014). He began the year with Triple-A Fresno in the Astros organization and posted a 4.96 ERA and two saves in 15 games out of the bullpen.

Lucas Irvine will take the mound for the Patriots. The right-hander enters with a 3-5 record but sports a 2.77 ERA that ranks fifth-best in the Atlantic League. He took a no-decision in his last start on Tuesday against Camden, giving up three runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out four in five and one-third innings. Back on July 3, he also took a no-decision against the Ducks and at Bethpage Ballpark. In that start, he allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings but struck out eight batters, just one shy of his season high. Irvine has not earned a win since June 22, but he has yielded three earned runs or less in each of his last five starts. He was also an All-Star this season and threw a scoreless inning during the midsummer classic on July 8 in Bridgeport.

Here are today’s game notes:

The Faithful Flock: Saturday’s crowd of 6,867 was the Ducks’ sixth sold out crowd of the season. Long Island has now hosted 645 sold out crowds all-time, which is an Atlantic League record. The Ducks have welcomed an Atlantic League best 6,470,768 fans through the gates of Bethpage Ballpark since the team’s inaugural 2000 season. They currently lead the Atlantic League in average attendance this season at 5,142 fans per game.

Ducks vs. Patriots: Tonight marks the 298th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Patriots. Somerset leads the series 149-148, but Long Island has a 79-72 advantage at Bethpage Ballpark. Tonight also marks the 13th of 20 scheduled games between the two in 2015. The Ducks lead the series seven games to five, and 10 of the first 12 meetings have been decided by three runs or less. Both teams are facing each other for the third straight weekend and are scheduled to play a total of 12 games against one another during the month of July.

Home Cooking: Despite Saturday’s loss, the Ducks still boast a 29-8 home record this season. Their .784 home winning percentage is the best in the Atlantic League. Somerset ranks second at .682 (30-14). As a team, the Ducks have a .312 batting average and 3.12 ERA at home. Comparatively, they have a .264 batting average and a 3.28 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark.

McQuail’s Monster Night: Steve McQuail launched two more home runs on Saturday night. The Wantagh native has gone deep four times in four games with the Flock, including in three consecutive games. He became the fourth Duck this season to hit multiple homers in a single game. Cody Puckett (May 2), Jon Griffin (May 14) and Lew Ford (July 5) were the other three. In addition, he collected his second straight multi-RBI game by driving in three runs and earned his first multi-hit game as a Duck with three hits.

Randy’s Dandy: Randy Ruiz’s solo home run in the seventh inning was his fifth longball of the season in just 33 games played. He has hit three of those five during the month of July, all of which have come against the Patriots. With three hits in the game, Ruiz has now earned at least one hit in 17 of his last 18 games. In that span, the former big leaguer is batting .368 (28-for-76) with four homers, 15 RBI and nine runs scored. He has now amassed two three-hit games this season and has multiple hits in 17 of his 33 games played with the Flock.

Oh, What a Relief He Is: Amalio Diaz worked another scoreless eighth inning on Saturday. The right-hander has now allowed just two runs total over his last 19 appearances, posting a 0.86 ERA in that span. He has given up just 12 hits and one walk over 21 innings in those games while striking out 24 batters. Diaz now leads the Atlantic League with 37 appearances in 2015. Patrick Crider has yielded just two runs in his last 10 appearances. In that span, he has a 1.74 ERA and has allowed just four hits and six walks with eight strikeouts in 10.1 innings.

On the Air: Today’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Live streaming video and audio will be available 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 today’s starting lineups:

#44 Bryan Sabatella – RF
#5 Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#2  Cody Puckett – 3B
#50 Randy Ruiz – 1B
#40 Steve McQuail – DH
#9   Mike Blanke – C
#27 Prentice Redman – LF
#11 Blake Davis – 2B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS

#23 Darin Downs – LHP

#14 Vinny Zarrillo – CF
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#8 David Vidal – 1B
#20 Greg Hopkins – 3B
#39 Michael Burgess – DH
#21 Adam Donachie– C
#13 Robert Andino – SS
#3 Nate Spears – RF
#15 Jose Garcia Reyes – 2B

#16 Lucas Irvine – RHP

We’ll have updates for you throughout the game from Bethpage Ballpark as the Ducks and Patriots close out their three-game series! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (5:08): TOP 1: Darin Downs kicks and deals a first pitch strike, and we are underway in our Sunday evening rubber match with the Pats!

UPDATE (5:29): TOP 2: RBI single from Nate Spears to right and the Pats lead 1-0.

UPDATE (5:34): BOT 2: Mike Blanke! A solo HR to DEEP left field! That ball leaves the park and the game is tied 1-1!

UPDATE (5:57): TOP 4: Michael Burgess with a solo homer to right put the Pats on top 2-1.

UPDATE (7:01): TOP 8: Ducks still trail the Patriots 2-1. Bruce Kern out on the hill once again for the Flock trying to get the bats back up!

UPDATE (7:20): BOT 9: One more shot for Long Island! Puckett, Ruiz, McQuail due up for the Ducks, trailing 2-1.

UPDATE (7:28): FINAL: Patriots take the rubber game and series with a 2-1 win on Sunday.


Posted on July 19, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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