Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Long Island Ducks: A Trying Second Half Will End On The Road

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

LONG ISLAND DUCKS:  Trying To Gain Some Momentum Before Playoffs Begin.

While Lew Ford is participating in a pennant race with the Baltimore Orioles, and Mike Loree is off pitching in the Far East, conditions at Bethpage Park have taken a drastic change for the worse.  Unless fortunes change over the final six games of the regular season for their former team mates and some newer Ducks acquisitions, The Pond figuratively risks being declared an ecological disaster area.

After falling in last season's Atlantic League finals to the York Revolution, the Ducks ensured at least an opportunity to redeem themselves in this year's playoffs.  Long Island secured a post-season spot earlier this summer by clinching the first half Liberty Division flag with a 39-30 record.  But in the sixty three games since the Ducks clinched their first half title, wins have come too infrequently Long Island's way.  Sucked dry of its resources, their habitat has been transformed from a thriving baseball oasis on the fringes of Gotham, into a barren cracking surface baked under an otherwise splendid summer sun.

What a precipitous fall in the standings it has been.  Last season, Long Island stormed to record the finest overall season in the league.   Heading into Tuesday's series opener against the Somerset Patriots, the Ducks now own the Atlantic League's worst overall record.  Since the start of the second half, the team has firmly entrenched itself in last place with a 21-42 second half mark; 12.5 games behind the first place Southern Maryland Blue Claws, and 5.5 games behind third place Camden.  Overall, the Ducks have fallen to 60-72 this season.  With six games left, the likelihood Long Island escapes the Liberty Division cellar between now and September 24th are zero to none.

Before the regular season comes to an end on September 23rd, the Long Islanders will try and find a winning formula in their last two scheduled series.  Lest, their optimism for returning to the Atlantic League championship round continue waning.

So what happened?

Offensively speaking, the Ducks aren't the offensive juggernaut they were last season.  Reid Gorecki, Ryan Garko, and Lew Ford have long departed the line-up.  Ray Navarret is the club's only .300 hitter.  Where as last season, Kraig Binick was winning a batting title.  Slugger Brandon Sing has pulled his weight filling the power role.  But Bryant Nelson, Shaun Williams, Matt Esquivel, Dan Lyons, and now Timo Perez have not contributed the kind out output the Ducks achieved last season when they led the league in runs.  More modest and pedestrian performances have quieted this season down considerably.

On the hill, the Ducks have suffered a season long dearth of quality starting pitching.  The loss of Mike Loree only exacerbated the situation.  Forced into starting duties this season, Bob Zimmermann is the Ducks best starter.  He sports a 6-10 record this season, complimented by a 4.39 ERA.  After Zimm, Randy Keisler sports a more eye catching 2.72 ERA in twelve starts.  Next in is Bobby Blevins who was acquired in a trade via the CanAm League.  He's off to a promising start with Long Island.  So far he sports a 2.84 after three starts.  Chris Hayes has eight starts under his belt since being acquired from Bridgeport.  He is 3-0 so far.  In 52.2 innings pitched, he struck out twenty three batters while only walking five.

Sunday, the Ducks played their last home game of the regular season.  They may have received a boost in confidence just in time for their road trip towards the playoffs.  Fortune may have come in a pitcher named Matt Way.  In his first ever appearance for the Ducks on Sunday, he shut out the River Sharks over eight full innings.  He allowed them a mere two hits and issued two walks.  In the process of blanking Camden, he also struck out thirteen batters.

Whether all this winds up capable of potentially defeating South Maryland in the playoffs remains to be seen.  Until then, Monday was an off day for the team.  Today, the Ducks begin a three game series against the Somerset Patriots.  They will then conclude their schedule in Camden.

The Ducks will be returning to Bethpage Park for at least one game playoff game.  What comes after that is any body's guess.


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