Game 98: Ducks at Skeeters

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Ducks manager Kevin Baez and several of his players commented before their trip to Sugar Land that good starting pitching was going to be a big key to the team having a successful series in Texas. The starters had not been as dominant since the departures of Mickey Jannis and Andrew Barbosa, and to beat a Skeeters team that plays well at home, they would need to keep their lineup in check. Well, through three games, the Ducks’ starting rotation has turned in three quality starts and has picked up wins now in back-to-back games to take a 2-1 lead in the four-game set. Friday night’s performance by John Brownell led the way in a 2-1 victory for the Flock.

Brownell had to work through a lot of deep counts in the game, but he shut down Sugar Land’s lineup with relative ease. The only blemish on his night was a pair of one-out hits in the second inning by Travis Scott and Johan Limonta, with the latter’s double giving the Skeeters their only run of the night. The right-hander followed up the double by retiring the next 11 Sugar Land batters in order before surrendering a leadoff walk in the sixth. Over his final five innings, Brownell gave up just that one walk and a single to Scott, and for the game, he allowed just four baserunners total. The Ducks veteran added six more strikeouts to his season total and leads the league in K’s (99) as well as innings pitched (122.2).

Offensively, the Ducks were not able to muster much against a former member of the Flock, Derek Blacksher. Sugar Land’s right-hander also turned in a quality start and struck out seven Ducks batters over six innings of work. However, he threw two bad pitches during the game that Long Island turned into the two runs they would need for the win. In the second inning, Cody Puckett led off and lined a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left field for his seventh home run of the season, putting the Ducks ahead 1-0. After Sugar Land tied the game in the second, Mike Blanke broke the tie with two outs in the fourth. Ahead in the count 2-0, Blanke hit a towering drive to left field that cleared the tent awning atop the Wells Fargo Picnic Plaza for his sixth home run of the year. Long Island managed only four hits total in the ballgame, with Delta Cleary, Jr. and Jon Griffin each managing singles to go along with the homers. However, with the way Brownell pitched, they didn’t need anymore.

Kevin Baez used Ryan Kussmaul and Amalio Diaz in the eighth and ninth to close out the game. Kussmaul, who was pitching for the second straight day in his new eighth inning role, retired the side in order with ease to preserve the lead. In the ninth, things did not start well for Diaz. Jeff Dominguez opened the inning by reaching on a two-base fielding error when Bryan Sabatella misplayed a fly ball to left. Diaz followed by walking Delwyn Young, putting the tying and winning runs on base with nobody out. However, the righty rebounded by getting Daryle Ward to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. With the tying run 90 feet away, Diaz overpowered Chris Wallace with fastballs, getting him to swing and miss for the game-ending strikeout and his fourth save of the year.

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

The Ducks will look for their first series win since July 10-12 at Somerset, the first series of the second half, in Saturday’s finale. Bobby Blevins will take the mound for the Ducks, looking to earn his second win of the season. He pitched well in his last outing but took the loss on Saturday against Bridgeport. The right-hander tossed seven innings and allowed just three runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out six. However, the Bluefish came away with a 3-2 win. Blevins has now pitched well in back-to-back outings but has not earned a win since July 11, which was also the last time the Ducks won when he started. Runs have been a problem for the Ducks when Blevins pitches, as he has received just five runs of support in his last four starts. His only appearance of the year against the Skeeters was his first outing of the season, when he tossed two scoreless innings of relief on June 26 at Constellation Field.

Countering Blevins will be Josh Geer of the Skeeters. The right-hander enters at 4-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 14 starts this season. He last pitched on Sunday at Southern Maryland and took a no-decision, allowing two runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings while striking out three. Sugar Land lost the game 4-2. Geer has only gone five innings in his last two starts, and his last win came on July 22 against Lancaster when he threw seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory. He has been much better at home then on the road this year, going 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in six home starts and 0-2 with a 5.03 ERA in eight road starts. Geer has started against the Ducks three times this year and is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA. He went six innings in both starts against Long Island in Texas and allowed just two runs combined, earning the win in both outings.

Here are tonight’s game notes:

Ducks vs. Skeeters: Tonight marks the 76th all-time meeting between the Ducks and Skeeters. Sugar Land currently leads the series 40-35 and holds a 26-13 advantage at Constellation Field. Tonight is also the 16th of 19 scheduled games between the two teams in 2015. The Ducks lead the series eight to seven. 11 of the last 12 games between them have been 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 .257 batting average and a 3.23 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark.

Now, that’s High Quality Pitching: Ducks starting pitchers have now made four consecutive quality starts overall and five quality starts in their last six outings. The only exception was Rich Hill’s five inning scoreless effort on Sunday. In their last six games, Ducks starters have compiled a 2.68 ERA, allowing just 11 earned runs in 37 innings. In that span, they have given up just 26 hits and 10 walks while striking out 31 batters.

Power Show: Cody Puckett and Mike Blanke each launched a solo home run on Friday night. For Puckett, it was his seventh of the season and third against the Skeeters. He also homered against Sugar Land twice on May 2 at home. Friday’s longball was his first since July 11, a span of 24 games. Blanke’s homer was his sixth of the season and first against Sugar Land. It was also his first since July 19, a span of 16 games.

Off to the Races: The Ducks stole two more bases on Friday. As a team, they have stolen 100 bases in 2015. That total is good for first in the Atlantic League, tied with the Bridgeport Bluefish. Dan Lyons earned his 14th steal in 15 attempts and is tied for second in the league with a .933 stolen base percentage. Fehlandt Lentini earned his firs steal since rejoining the Flock. Last year, the outfielder was 46-for-46 on stolen bases attempts.

Oh, What a Relief He Is: Amalio Diaz earned his second consecutive save since taking over the closer role. The right-hander has allowed just one run over his last nine appearances out of the bullpen. In that span, he has given up only five hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters in nine innings. Diaz now leads the Atlantic League with 44 appearances in 2015.

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:

Ducks

#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

#18 Bobby Blevins – RHP

Skeeters

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

#32 Josh Geer – RHP

Keep it here for updates throughout the evening, as the Ducks wrap up their four-game series and stay in Texas against the Skeeters. You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!

UPDATE (6:17): TOP 1: Delta Cleary, Jr. launches his first home run as a Duck with a solo blast to right field! The Ducks take an early 1-0 lead!

UPDATE (6:30): BOT 1: Sugar Land answers with a two-out, two-run home run by Daryle Ward. His first as a Skeeter gives them a 2-1 lead.

UPDATE (6:41): TOP 2: Ducks strike back with two outs! Dan Lyons and Cody Puckett with back-to-back two-run singles! Long Island leads 5-2!

UPDATE (6:56): BOT 2: Sugar Land gets a run on Kevin Russo’s RBI double but nothing further. 5-3 Flock after two!

UPDATE (7:25): Pitchers have settled down. Bobby Blevins has retired nine in a row, and Josh Geer has retired six in a row. Still a 5-3 Ducks lead after four.

UPDATE (7:38): TOP 5: Jon Griffin delivers a two-out, two-run single to center to score Puckett and put the Ducks up 6-3!

UPDATE (8:17): A scoreless sixth inning from Donnie Veal and a scoreless seventh from Nick Struck keep the Ducks on top 6-3 through seven!

UPDATE (8:32): BOT 8: J.C. Romero tosses a scoreless inning in the eighth, allowing just a walk. Onto the ninth with the Ducks still in front 6-3!

UPDATE (8:45): TOP 9: Ducks add an insurance run on a RBI double by Lyons! His third RBI of the game makes it 7-3 Long Island!

UPDATE (8:53): FINAL: Patrick Crider works a scoreless ninth inning, and the Ducks win it 7-3 over the Sugar Land Skeeters to take the four-game series in Texas!

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Posted on August 8, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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