The Ducks needed a big game Wednesday night and, as he did so often last season, righthander Bobby Blevins delivered. Blevins threw eight shutout innings, allowing three hits with four strikeouts in a 1-0, 13-inning win over the first-place Somerset Patriots.
After splitting the first two games of the series, Blevins' performance assured that the Ducks would walk out of Somerset with at least a series split. The Ducks won again Thursday night, 5-1, to take three of four from the Patriots and go a game up on the first-half champions in the Liberty Division's second-half race. The Ducks beat last-place Camden, 14-5, on Friday to remain a game in front heading into weekend action.
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Blevins, 30, is in his fourth season on Long Island. After a stint in Taiwan this spring, Blevins re-signed with the Ducks in mid-June. He is 2-3 with a 4.61 ERA in nine starts.
After Camden, the Ducks Monday begin a three-game set in Bridgeport and that series could be more important than last week's Somerset series because if Somerset wins the second half, a wild-card spot opens up and the Ducks hold a commanding lead in that race.
Bridgeport entered play Saturday night two games behind the Ducks in the second-half standings. If Bridgeport were to win the second half, the Ducks likely would find themselves out of the playoffs for the second straight year. A wild-card spot would also open up if Southern Maryland won the second-half Freedom Division title, but they entered the weekend in last place.
The scheduled starter for the opener in Bridgeport Monday night? Blevins.
When you're in a big game, does it feel different?
Absolutely. There's a little more sense of urgency right now because it's coming down to the playoff push. These games all matter . . . We have to have our best game out there, play well, pitch well, and come up with timely hitting. That's what we've been doing lately. We're on a hot streak, which is great.
How do you approach the bigger games?
You limit your mistakes. You take it one pitch at a time and minimize [mistakes].
What worked well for you Wednesday?
I had command of my fastball on both sides of the plate, stayed aggressive and worked down in the zone.
Where do you think you are, as a pitcher, in relation to where you want to be at this point after the stint in Taiwan?
I've had a rough couple of outings here and there. It was a rough start. But, physically and mentally, I'm finally back to where I need to be. I feel comfortable out there. [Wednesday night], I went out there with the mindset that it was a playoff game. It's coming down to the last 30 games. Every game matters. We're in a playoff hunt and I took it out there after a big win [Tuesday] and kept the momentum going. I treated it like game one of the playoffs.
What makes Bridgeport so good?
They're playing baseball the right way. They're making plays, getting timely hitting, and are going out there with nothing to lose. When you have a team that's going out there with nothing to lose and are playing loose and free, it's a scary team. We have a big 'X' on our back on Long Island. Everyone brings their 'A' game against us.
Next up: Camden at Ducks, 5:05 p.m. Sunday.