LDCS Game 3: Ducks at Patriots
Thursday’s battle between the Ducks and the Patriots was one of those games that was as dramatic as they come for fans at Bethpage Ballpark. It was a classic battle between the two division rivals. It was also one of those games that was a nightmare for reporters. After seven innings, most writers would have had their stories written and ready to be sent in with the click of a button. By the middle of the eighth, they would all have had to press the dreaded “CTRL+A+DELETE” combo to rewrite their stories. By the end of the eighth, a whole new story was to be written. In the end, the Ducks came away with a 5-4 win in a game that wasn’t an absolute must win but certainly felt like it.
For the first seven innings, the story was undoubtedly Ducks starter Darin Downs. The southpaw had his best stuff of the year, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He allowed a walk to Robert Andino to lead off the game but did not allow another baserunner until Thomas Neal drew a one-out walk in the fourth. Downs would set down the next seven in a row and got ahead of Aharon Eggleston 0-2 with two outs in the sixth. However, Somerset’s worked the count full before singling to right and ending the no-hit bid. The Bethpage Ballpark faithful rose to their feet and applauded the efforts of Long Island’s lefty. The former big leaguer retired Neal to end the sixth and threw a scoreless seventh, yielding only a broken bat single to Michael Burgess. Downs finished with seven strikeouts in his seven scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the Ducks found a way to scratch out three runs against Patriots starter Mickey Storey, who finished the season tied with John Brownell for the league lead in wins. After leaving 15 men on base the previous night, the Ducks found a way to plate some runs with productive outs. Following singles by Randy Ruiz and Sean Burroughs in the second, Dan Lyons flied out to right but moved Ruiz to third with the deep drive. Cody Puckett followed with a sac fly to deep center to put the Ducks on top. Two innings later, Ruiz and Burroughs again singled to open the inning and were both able to move into scoring position after Tucker could not come up with Burroughs’ liner cleanly. Lyons followed with a sac fly in foul territory down the right field line, as Ruiz slid in just past the tag of catcher David Vidal. Puckett followed with a RBI single to left-center, and the Ducks had built a fairly comfortable lead. Then, the eighth inning happened.
Ricardo Gomez was called upon to pitch for the Ducks, and he retired Nate Spears for the first out. However, he then fell behind and walked Jonny Tucker, the ninth hitter in Somerset’s lineup. Andino came up next and fell behind 0-2 quickly. However, Gomez missed with two straight pitches, the second of which saw Tucker steal second. Andino hit the next pitch into right for a RBI single, scoring pinch runner Ollie Linton. Long Island’s lead had shrunk to two, and Eggleston reached first as the tying run on a catcher’s interference with a 3-1 count. Kevin Baez brought in J.C. Romero at that point, and he walked Neal on five pitches to load up the bases. Burgess followed with a ground ball to the right side which appeared like it could have been an inning ending double play. However, Burroughs cut in front of second baseman Elmer Reyes to field the ball and dropped it for a run-scoring error. Matt Fields followed with a two-run double that put the Patriots ahead 4-3, but on the play, Burgess was thrown out at home plate trying to score, and that would end up proving to be a huge play in the game.
After Romero struck out Vidal to end the inning, Long Island needed a rally to at least tie the game and get their fans back into the game. Fehlandt Lentini fell behind 0-2 against Storey but took four straight balls to work an inning opening walk. After moving to second on a wild pitch, Delta Cleary, Jr. sacrificed him over to third base. Daniel Sattler was called upon by manager Brett Jodie, and he struck out Lew Ford for a big second out. However, Sattler walked Ruiz on five pitches, the last of which was down in the dirt and scooted past Vidal. Lentini raced home and slid in with the tying run on the wild pitch. Jodie made another change and brought in Connor Little, a righty, to face Sean Burroughs, a lefty. Burroughs fell behind 1-2 but was able to work the count full, and Anthony Vega stole second base after coming in to pinch run for Ruiz. On the 3-2 offering, Burroughs grounded a single through the right side off of the glove of Spears at second, and Vega raced home with the go-ahead run. For Burroughs, who pumped his fist in pure joy at first, it was a great way to atone for his fielding error in the top of the frame. Romero came back out for the ninth and retired the bottom of the order 1-2-3 to seal with the win and even the series at one.
Game Three of the series means a shift to TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, New Jersey. This is a ballpark that has been one of the friendliest to the Ducks in 2015. Long Island posted a 7-4 record in enemy territory this season, splitting a four-game series at the end of May, taking two of three in mid-July and earning three wins in four games in mid-August. The Ducks earned three consecutive victories during that final series after dropping the opener, taking games by scores of 8-7, 1-0 and 5-1. This was also the place where the Ducks earned a Game Five win in the 2013 Atlantic League Championship Series to earn their second consecutive title, though they also dropped games the previous two nights in extra innings.
The Ducks will send Bobby Blevins to the mound in Game Three. He has been one of the best postseason pitchers for the Flock since joining the team in 2012 (see the notes below) and was outstanding on the road this year. He made 10 of his 14 starts this season on the road and posted a 4-2 record with a 2.94 ERA away from Bethpage Ballpark. In 67 and one-third innings on the road, he allowed just five walks while striking out 50 batters. Two of those road starts came at Somerset, and he pitched well in both. On July 11, he tossed six innings of two-run ball, allowing six while striking out six and not walking a batter in 4-3 Ducks win. Then on August 19, he threw eight shutout innings, yielding just three hits and no walks with four strikeouts, taking a no-decision in 1-0 victory of Long Island that took 13 innings to decide. Overall, Blevins finished 2015 at 4-4 with a 3.82 ERA, but he pitched to a 2.11 ERA over his final six starts of the season, all of which came on the road.
Somerset will counter with Matt Zielinski, who coincidentally has been one of the best pitchers for Somerset at home. The southpaw made 17 starts in his home ballpark this season and compiled a 6-2 record with a 2.41 ERA and two complete games. In 115 and two-thirds innings, he allowed just 22 walks while striking out 80 batters. The Somerset veteran made three starts against Long Island, all at home, and was 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA. He took the loss on May 30, giving up three runs on nine hits while striking out four over seven innings in a 3-0 Ducks win. On July 10, he threw six scoreless innings, yielding six hits and a walk while striking out seven in a 2-0 Patriots win. Then, he too took a no-decision on August 19 while opposing Blevins, allowing six hits and a walk over seven scoreless frames while striking out five. Overall, Zielinski ended the season with an 8-4 record and a 2.86 ERA, but he did pitch to an 8.22 ERA over his final three starts of the season. In two of those three, he surrendered seven runs, both of which came against York and one of which came at home (September 8).
Here are tonight’s game notes:
Historic Season: The Ducks finished the 2015 regular season with 80 wins. That total marks the second-most in franchise history, with the only higher total being 82 during the 2000 season (82-58). In addition, Long Island also set a team 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.
Game Two Success: With Thursday’s victory, the Ducks earned their fifth consecutive win in Game Two of a postseason series. The Ducks had taken Game Two of both playoff series in both 2012 and 2013 en route to back-to-back Atlantic League championships. All-time, the Ducks improved their record in Game Two matchups to 7-7, including a 5-4 mark at home.
Sugar, We’re Goin Downs: Darin Downs turned in another quality start with seven scoreless innings on Thursday. Dating back to the regular season, the southpaw has tossed six consecutive quality starts. In that span, he has compiled a 2.61 ERA, allowing just 11 earned runs in 38 innings of work. He’s yielded 32 hits and 11 walks in that span while striking out 35 batters.
Sean is On: Sean Burroughs picked up three hits for the second straight playoff game on Thursday. In the postseason, the former big leaguer has six hits in eight at-bats with one double, two RBI and one run scored. Burroughs collected seven three-hit contests during the season and finished with 15 multi-hit games overall.
Game Three Notes: The Ducks enter tonight’s Game Three matchup with an all-time record of 5-5 in Game Three of a postseason series. Long Island is 3-3 in a Game Three on the road and 2-2 at home. During their last playoff appearance in 2013, the Ducks split their two Game Three matchups, winning in the Division Series at Southern Maryland but falling in the Championship Series at Somerset.
Bobby’s a Beast: Game Three starter Bobby Blevins will make his fourth postseason start as a member of the Ducks. He has yet to earn a decision thus far but has compiled a 2.70 ERA. In 20 innings of work, the right-hander has given up just six runs on 15 hits and no walks while striking out 11 batters.
On the Air: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on the Ducks’ flagship radio station, 103.9-FM. Live streaming audio will also 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
#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
#18 Bobby Blevins – RHP
#11 Robert Andino – SS
#91 Aharon Eggleston – LF
#24 Thomas Neal – DH
#39 Michael Burgess – RF
#16 Matt Fields – 1B
#20 Greg Hopkins – 3B
#5 Ollie Linton – CF
#21 Adam Donachie – C
#3 Nate Spears – 2B
#31 Matt Zielinski – LHP
Check back here for updates all evening long as the Ducks and Patriots look to gain a leg-up in the LDCS from TD Bank Ballpark! You can also follow the Ducks on Twitter (@LIDucks) for updates all year long!
UPDATE (7:30): No score after one at TD Bank Ballpark. Fehlandt Lentini earned a hit, and Randy Ruiz was walked in the Ducks’ half of the frame.
UPDATE (8:12): BOT 3: Aharon Eggleston hits a two-out solo home run to right field to put Somerset ahead 1-0. It’s his first longball of the playoffs.
UPDATE (8:42): TOP 5: The Ducks score four times with two outs in the inning to take a 4-1 lead! A RBI single by Sean Burroughs, a RBI double by Dan Lyons and a two-run single by Cody Puckett did the damage.
UPDATE (8:58): TOP 6: Lew Ford grounds a two-out RBI single up the middle! 5-1 Ducks in front!
UPDATE (9:07): BOT 6: Michael Burgess with a two-run homer to right-center trims Long Island’s lead to 5-3.
UPDATE (9:18): TOP 7: Puckett singles with two outs, and Mike Blanke drives a RBI double to left-center! 6-3 Long Island
UPDATE (9:41): BOT 7: David Vidal picks up a RBI single, but Long Island turns a splendid 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam! 6-4 Flock after seven
UPDATE (10:01): TOP 8: Ruiz with a two-run double, Burroughs with a sac fly, and it’s now a 9-4 Ducks lead in the eighth!
UPDATE (10:27): FINAL: Ryan Kussmaul retires the final six Patriots hitters, and the Ducks win 9-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series!
Posted on September 25, 2015, in Game Previews, Game Recaps and tagged 2015, Atlantic League, Bobby Blevins, Championship Series, Cody Puckett, Darin Downs, J.C. Romero, Liberty Division, Long Island Ducks, Matt Zielinski, Mickey Storey, Sean Burroughs, Somerset Patriots, TD Bank Ballpark. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.