From the desk of: THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE
LONG ISLAND DUCKS: The Webbed Nine Had Their Soft White Feathered Under Belly Exposed in Camden.
What's wrong with the Ducks?
Nothing. They got swept by the Camden River Sharks; that's all. When the team is going this well, you can't be taken aback by something like that. It happens. They lost a double-header Saturday and lost Sunday after getting rained out Friday evening down in Camden, N.J.
But what really happened to the Ducks besides meeting up with a Camden team playing well at the moment? Camden is after all 22-12 in the second half, and in second place behind Long Island.
Last week, Mike Loree won his 14th game of the season. That set the Long Island Ducks' single season record for victories; previously set by Troy Cate (13) in 2009. He also struck out 10 batters in that game. This season, Mike Loree is the Atlantic League's leader in wins; strikeouts; and ERA. And he will be tonight's starter when the Ducks open up a series against Southern Maryland at Bethpage Park.
And now you can start talking about the Ducks' problems. Between Loree starts, the Ducks are now officially thin. And Camden caught Long Island within the void as Mike Loree pitched last Wednesday and goes again tonight.
Although seemingly moving right along, and continuing to win games at a 67% clip after the contracts of Mike Parisi and Shane Youman were sold, perhaps this is a glimpse into what kind of havoc lack of depth in the starting rotation can cause in a short series. With the playoffs right around the corner, it's a scary glimpse I'm afraid.
In this most recent turn through the rotation, besides Mike Loree's victory last Wednesday, the only other Ducks' pitcher to record a win was Mark Diapoules; when he followed Loree last Thursday and completed a sweep of the Road Warriors.
With Long Island's need for starters, Diapoules stepped out of the bullpen and into a starting role. As a relief pitcher through mid-June, he record was 1-1 and by then his ERA had grown to 3.96. Since then, he's amazingly 6-0 as a starter, and his 4.06 ERA is not much higher than previous to starting his new role.
Then came a weekend series in Camden; a trio of loses; and three questions moving forward.
Regular starter; Joselo Diaz; pitched the first game of a double-header Saturday; ...well, technically anyway. He lasted all of 1.1 innings and gave up seven runs; six earned. It falls right in line with his overall struggles this season. He's 5-7 as a starter this season with a 6.90 ERA. He's walked almost as many as he's struck out in 19 starts for the Ducks.
In game two Saturday; staff regular; Ruddy Lugo took his turn and coughed-up 4.2 innings pitched. He allowed 10 hits; 6 runs/4 earned. In sixteen starts this season, Ruddy is 5-3 with a 5.91 ERA. In 74 innings pitched, he too walks as many as he strikes out; 39/40.
Sunday, Dave Williams; like Diapoules who was summoned from the bullpen to start games; made his third start of the season, and eighteenth appearance over all. Of the three weekend starting pitchers against Camden, Williams went the longest, but suffered the same fate as the others; he lost. He pitched 6.0 innings, while surrendering five runs on eight hits.
Now tonight, Ducks' Ace Mike Loree; who is the League leader in all three Triple Crown categories for a pitcher; must also play stopper for Long Island.
But what could be wrong? Southern Maryland can either expose the dilemma I spelled out, or put some of these anxieties to rest with this series opening up tonight.
We know how in the playoffs, what you have left to compete against is good pitching. And the saying goes, good pitching stops good hitting. The Ducks have basically been pounding opponents into submission with their offense; with League batting leaders, and League leaders in RBI. They have the highest team batting and have scored the most team runs.
But their pitching is now depleted. Will they be able to slug their way through the playoffs? Ideally, Mike Loree only gets one start in a round of playoffs. If he makes two starts, it's because the series went to a fifth and deciding game.
Are you comfortable with that?