Game 97: Ducks at Skeeters

On paper, Thursday’s matchup on the mound between Ducks left-hander Darin Downs and Skeeters right-hander Matt Wright appeared like it would result in a high-scoring game. Downs entered at 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA, and Wright was 5-5 with a 4.37 ERA. Both had lost three consecutive starts. However, through the first four innings, both pitchers appeared to be in control and kept their opponent off the scoreboard. Things changed though in the fifth, and fortunately for the Ducks, they were able to come up with the big hits and take advantage of several Skeeters mistakes en route to a 6-2 win that evened the series at a game apiece.

After missing out on scoring in the third and fourth innings, despite putting two runners on each inning, the Ducks finally broke through in the fifth. Two singles, with a sac bunt sandwiched in between, put runners at the corners with only one out. With Fehlandt Lentini leading at first base, Wright threw over to first three straight times to keep him close. Only problem? The third throw skipped past Delwyn Young, allowing Steve McQuail to score the game’s first run. Delta Cleary, Jr. followed with a RBI double down the left field line that scored Lentini from second to double the lead. Dan Lyons followed by reaching on an infield single to short to put runners at first and second. When Cleary, Jr. and Lyons took off on a double steal during Cody Puckett’s at-bat, Chris Wallace’s throw sailed into center field. Sugar Land’s second error of the inning plated Cleary, Jr. for the third run of the frame.

Darin Downs, who was in need of a quality start, got off to a great night with four scoreless and hitless innings to open the game. However, he ran into trouble with two outs and one on in the fifth. The southpaw surrendered a single to Kevin Russo and a walk to Renny Osuna, loading the bases for the free-swinging Denny Almonte. He tried to get Almonte to chase down in the zone, but two breaking balls during the at-bat skipped past Mike Blanke and allowed the Skeeters to score a pair of runs. Fortunately, Downs was able to bounce back and strike out the center fielder and keep the Ducks ahead.

Long Island’s offense picked up their starter in the sixth, taking advantage of two more miscues by Sugar Land’s pitching staff. Wright walked Blanke to open the inning, and after he was lifted from the game, James Parr walked Carlos Hughes with two outs. Looking to get their three-run lead back, Lentini delivered a triple down the right field line to put the Ducks up 5-2. Downs followed by stranding a pair of runners on in the sixth to end his night and secure the quality start. He ended up allowing just two runs on four hits and two walks in six innings while striking out four. It was his longest start as a Duck and a vast improvement from his prior start, when he allowed six runs on seven hits in four innings against Somerset. A sac fly from Bryan Sabatella in the seventh upped the lead to four before a trio of Long Island relievers (Nick Struck, Ryan Kussmaul and J.C. Romero) came in to slam the door shut on the Skeeters.

CLICK HERE to listen to highlights from Thursday’s game
CLICK HERE to view Thursday’s game box score

In the swing game of the four-game series and the season series, which is now tied at seven, the Ducks will turn to their ace, John Brownell. The right-hander enters at 7-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 17 starts this season. He leads the Atlantic League with 93 strikeouts and 115 and two-thirds innings pitched. The fourth-year Duck comes in off of a no-decision in his most recent outing, which came a week ago Friday against the Bluefish. Brownell allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out six batters. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts but has only received the win in two of them. His last start against the Skeeters came on June 25 in Texas, and he took a no-decision, yielding four runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeout in six innings. However, he threw eight shutout innings during the Ducks’ home opener against Sugar Land in a 5-0 victory on May 1.

Countering Brownell will be his former teammate, right-hander Derek Blacksher. The two were both on the roster during the Ducks’ championship run in 2013, and now Blacksher is having a strong season with the team from his home state. The All-Star has made 23 appearances this season, seven of which are starts, and is 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA. He has struck out 51 batters in 57 and two-thirds innings while walking only 14. During his last start, the righty pitched five innings of one-run ball and allowed five hits and a walk while striking out seven to earn the win on August 1 at Southern Maryland. He has not lost since May 28, when he gave up four unearned runs in two and two-thirds innings against the Blue Crabs. Despite having thrown in 23 games, Blacksher has faced the Ducks just once this year, throwing an inning of relief on June 27. That day, he walked Reegie Corona and gave up a RBI triple to Dan Lyons in the sixth inning of a 4-3 win.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Skeeters: Tonight marks the 75th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Skeeters. Sugar Land currently leads the series 40-34 and holds a 26-12 advantage at Constellation Field. Tonight is also the 15th of 19 scheduled games between the two teams in 2015. The series is tied at seven. Thursday ended a 10-game streak between the two decided by three runs or less.

Home Cooking: Monday’s victory improved the Ducks’ home record this season to 34-15. Their .694 home winning percentage is currently the best in the Atlantic League. Somerset is second at .667 (32-16). As a team, the Ducks have a .296 batting average and 3.21 ERA at home. Comparatively, they have a .260 batting average and a 3.28 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark.

Now, that’s High Quality Pitching: Ducks starting pitchers have now made three consecutive quality starts overall and four quality starts in their last five outings. The only exception was Rich Hill’s five inning scoreless effort on Sunday. In their last five games, Ducks starters have compiled a 3.00 ERA, allowing just 10 earned runs in 30 innings. In that span, they have given up just 23 hits and nine walks while striking out 25 batters.

Off to the Races: The Ducks stole two more bases on Thursday. As a team, they have stolen 98 bases in 2015. That total is good for second in the Atlantic League, trailing only the Bridgeport Bluefish (100). Delta Cleary, Jr. collected his 23rd stolen base, which ranks fourth in the league. Dan Lyons earned his 13th steal in 14 attempts and ranks third with a .929 stolen base percentage.

Oh, What a Relief They Are: J.C. Romero tossed a scoreless inning of relief in the ninth on Thursday. The former big leaguer has given up just one run in his last 11 appearances, compiling a 0.90 ERA in that span. Nick Struck also pitched a scoreless innings on Thursday, doing so in the seventh. The right-hander has yielded just two runs in his last 10 outings, posting a 1.86 ERA during that stretch.

Two-Fer Thursday: Four different Ducks players picked up two hits on Thursday. Dan Lyons earned his 12th two-hit game of the year, Delta Cleary, Jr. collected his 11th, Fehlandt Lentini added his third, and Carlos Hughes earned his first. Lyons now has 20 multi-hit games in 2015 while Cleary, Jr. has 19 and Lentini has four. In addition, Lentini picked up his first multi-RBI game of the year by driving in two runs. Every Ducks starter reached base safely at least once.

On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ flagship radio station, 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 follow a pitch-by-pitch account of the game via Pointstreak’s GameLive application by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, here are tonight’s starting lineups:


#22 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#5   Delta Cleary, Jr. – CF
#12 Dan Lyons – DH
#2   Cody Puckett – 2B
#44 Bryan Sabatella – LF
#9   Mike Blanke – C
#33 Jon Griffin – 1B
#40 Steve McQuail – 3B
#6   Carlos Hughes – SS

#7   John Brownell – RHP


#14 Jeff Dominguez – 2B
#24 Delwyn Young – RF
#35 Daryle Ward – 1B
#20 Chris Wallace – DH
#16 Travis Scott – C
#25 Johan Limonta – LF
#5   Kevin Russo – SS
#17 Denny Almonte – CF
#6   Patrick Palmeiro – 3B

#37 Derek Blacksher – RHP

Keep it here for updates all game long, as the Ducks and Skeeters play game three of their four-game series. You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (7:34): TOP 2: After both sides go in order in the first, Cody Puckett puts the Ducks on top with a leadoff solo homer to left field!

UPDATE (7:45): BOT 2: Sugar Land ties up the game on a one-out RBI double to left-center by Johan Limonta.

UPDATE (8:07): TOP 4: Mike Blanke puts the Ducks back in front with a mammoth solo homer to left! Long Island leads 2-1!

UPDATE (8:24): BOT 5: John Brownell works his third straight 1-2-3 inning and has now retired 11 in a row after the RBI double! Ducks still lead 2-1!

UPDATE (8:59): BOT 7: Brownell works around a two-out single by Travis Scott and keeps the Skeeters off the scoreboard again! 2-1 Flock after seven!

UPDATE (9:17): BOT 8: For the second straight night, Ryan Kussmaul works a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Brownell’s final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K!

UPDATE (9:42): FINAL: Amalio Diaz works out of a 1st-&-2nd, no-out jam in the ninth, getting a double play from Ward & striking out Wallace! Ducks win 2-1!


Posted on August 7, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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