LDCS Game 1: Ducks vs. Patriots
During the 2015 regular season, the Ducks finished with a winning record against five of seven teams. One of those teams was their opponent in the upcoming Liberty Division Championship Series, the Somerset Patriots. Somerset posted a league-record 50 wins in the first half of play, eventually taking first place in the Liberty Division in both halves with an overall record of 89-50. However, the Ducks played some of their best games of the season with the Pats, finishing with an 11-9 record against their rivals.
Long Island held the upper hand over the Patriots through the first 11 games of the season series, amassing a 7-4 record in that time. Coincidentally, one of the Ducks’ most thrilling finishes all year came in a 6-5 win on July 4 at Bethpage Ballpark thanks to a monster night from Randy Ruiz. The former big leaguer socked Long Island’s only grand slam of the season and picked up the game-winning hit in the ninth to help the Ducks walk off in front of 7,443 fans, the second-largest crowd in team history. However, over the final nine games of the season series, Somerset began to find ways to win. They were good enough for a 5-1 record against the Flock from July 18-August 17 to lead into the final three games between the teams. In a crucial road trip to close out the season slate, the Ducks won the final three games after dropping the opener at TD Bank Ballpark. One of those wins was a 1-0 victory in 13 innings on August 19, with Cody Puckett plating the lone run of the contest on a sacrifice fly. The night before, Long Island rallied for four runs in the ninth with two outs to earn an 8-7 win.
One run decided 10 of the 20 games played between the two teams this season. The largest margin of victory for either side was five runs (9-4 Ducks win on July 5 and 7-2 Ducks win on July 12). The Ducks also did not lose a game to Somerset by more than three runs this year. All of these stats indicate that the LDCS is sure to be highly competitive, as two talented division rivals fight their way to the Atlantic League Championship Series.
On the mound for the Ducks in the series opener will be their ace, John Brownell. The righty enters the postseason with great regular season numbers, having pitched 175 and two-thirds innings in 26 starts. In that span, he allowed 72 runs (66 earned) on 152 hits for a 3.38 ERA. Brownell walked 47 batters and struck out a league-high 146. That is also a career-high in K’s for the Omaha native and a Ducks single-season record. Despite yet another strong campaign, the fourth-year Duck struggled against the Patriots during the regular season. In three starts, Brownell allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 19 hits in 16 innings, finishing with an 0-1 record and 7.31 ERA. The Patriots hit .279 against him. However, those numbers are slightly misleading. In two of his three starts against Somerset (both in Bridgewater, N.J.), Brownell allowed all of his runs in one inning. On May 27, the Ducks won a 7-6 game, and all six of Somerset’s runs came on six hits in the fourth inning. In the other five innings he threw, Brownell surrendered just one hit. On August 18, the Flock also won by a single run, and all six of the runs scored against the righty came one inning, the fifth. Brownell gave up just one hit in the other four innings he threw. Historically, he has had great success against the Pats in the postseason. In the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series, Brownell won both Game One and Game Five over Somerset, helping the Ducks lift their third-ever Atlantic League trophy.
Opposing Brownell will be Roy Merritt. The southpaw has pitched for both Somerset and Sugar Land in 2015, spending most of the season in Texas after pitching the three previous seasons in New Jersey. He was traded to Sugar Land in early April before being reacquired on August 31. Merritt ended the regular season 8-6 with a 2.88 ERA in 21 games (19 starts). Two of his 19 starts came with the Patriots. In 112 and one-third innings, the Houston native allowed 38 runs (36 earned) on 104 hits while walking 20 and striking out 75. All of his appearances this season against the Ducks came in a Skeeters uniform. In three starts, the 30-year-old went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA. The game Merritt lost came in Central Islip on June 18, a 2-0 Ducks victory. The lefty pitched well, giving up the pair of runs on five hits in seven innings of work. In 20 innings overall, the Flock put together five runs on 16 hits against the former New York Mets prospect. In 2013, Merritt’s only decision of the five-game Championship Series between Somerset and Long Island came in Game Two. The Ducks came from behind to defeat the Pats 3-2, as Merritt suffered the loss, yielding all three runs in the sixth inning.
Here are tonight’s game notes:
The Faithful Flock: Since the Ducks’ inaugural season of 2000, the team has welcomed 6,639,533 fans through the gates of Bethpage Ballpark, which is an Atlantic League record. Long Island has also hosted 11 sold out crowds this year and 650 all-time, which is a league record as well. The Ducks led the Atlantic League in total attendance this year at 358,317 and average attendance at 5,269.
Postseason Bound: With the Somerset Patriots defeating the Bridgeport Bluefish on Tuesday, September 15, the Ducks clinched a berth in the 2015 Atlantic League playoffs. They enter the playoffs as a Wild Card winner by sporting the best overall record in the league after Somerset, who won both halves. It marks the 10th time in the last 12 seasons that the Ducks have earned a playoff berth, with 2010 and 2014 as the only exceptions. Long Island’s last two postseason trips have resulted in Atlantic League championships (2012, 2013).
Historic Season: The Ducks finished the 2015 regular season with 80 wins. That total marks the second-most ever in franchise history. The only higher win total was 82, accomplished during the team’s first season in 2000 when the Ducks went 82-58. In addition, Long Island set a franchise record with their 42 wins in the first half of the season. That total accounted for the most wins ever by a Ducks team in either half of the season.
Home Cooking: The Ducks finished their home schedule this season with an Atlantic League-best 48-22 record. Their .686 home winning percentage was 43 percentage points better than any other team (Lancaster, .643, 45-25). The 48 home victories were the third-most in franchise history for a single season. The only two greater totals were in 2000 (49-27) and in 2011 (51-20).
What Can Brown-ell Do For You?: Game One starter John Brownell finished the season as the Atlantic League leader in several categories. The right-hander posted league-best totals in wins (12), strikeouts (146), innings pitched (175.2), complete games (4) and shutouts (2). In addition, he finished tied for second in games started (26) and ranked fifth in ERA (3.38). While with the Ducks, Brownell has a career postseason record of 4-0 with a 2.87 and 27 strikeouts in five starts.
Back with the Flock: Lew Ford has earned at least one hit in six of the seven games that he has played since rejoining the Ducks following his stint in Mexico. In those seven games, he is batting .357 (10-for-28) with one double, five RBI and three runs scored. Dating back to June 30, Ford has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games and has reached base safely in 34 of his last 35 contests.
Randy’s Dandy: Randy Ruiz enters the postseason on a five-game hitting streak. In addition, he has earned at least one hit in 15 of his last 16 games with an at-bat. In those 16 contests dating back to August 28, Ruiz is batting .394 (26-for-66) with four doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI and nine runs scored.
On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Live streaming audio will be available online by CLICKING HERE. Michael Polak and David Weiss 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
#20 Lew Ford – CF
#50 Randy Ruiz – DH
#25 Sean Burroughs – 1B
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#9 Mike Blanke – C
#11 Elmer Reyes – 2B
#7 John Brownell – RHP
#13 Robert Andino – SS
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#24 Thomas Neal – DH
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#16 Matt Fields – 1B
#8 David Vidal – 3B
#20 Greg Hopkins – 2B
#6 Jonny Tucker – CF
#21 Adam Donachie – C
#15 Roy Merritt – LHP
Keep it here for updates all evening long as the Ducks and Patriots kick off the 2015 Liberty Division Championship Series from Bethpage Ballpark! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!
UPDATE (6:53): TOP 1: Michael Burgess’ RBI triple to right makes it 1-0 Patriots.
UPDATE (7:21): BOT 2: A throwing error by Greg Hopkins scores Dan Lyons! Tie game, 1-1!
UPDATE (7:38): BOT 3: Sean Burroughs’ RBI single to left puts the Ducks in front, 2-1! First and second, one out, Lyons at the plate.
UPDATE (7:48): TOP 4: Matt Fields hits a solo homer to left to tie the ballgame, 2-2.
UPDATE (8:09): TOP 5: Thomas Neal drops a RBI single into left to give the Pats a 3-2 lead.
UPDATE (8:10): TOP 5: Michael Burgess hits a two-run homer to right and Somerset pulls ahead 5-2.
UPDATE (8:52): BOT 7: A run-scoring wild pitch helps the Flock inch closer! 5-3 Somerset.
UPDATE (9:59): FINAL: Ducks fall 5-3 in Game One of the LDCS. Game Two tomorrow at 6:35 back at Bethpage Ballpark.
Posted on September 23, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged 2015, Atlantic League, Baseball, Bethpage Ballpark, John Brownell, Long Island Ducks, Randy Ruiz, Roy Merritt, Somerset Patriots, TD Bank Ballpark. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.