Chris Hayes continues improvement, pitching Ducks past York

Chris Hayes pitches to York. (August 12, 2012)

Chris Hayes pitches to York. (August 12, 2012) (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

A change of scenery has done wonders for Chris Hayes.

The sidearming righthander had a 9.15 ERA with Bridgeport before being traded to the Long Island Ducks on July 27. The difference has been dramatic, and he continued his turnaround Sunday night. Hayes pitched seven innings and allowed two runs, five hits and a walk as the Ducks defeated York, 7-2, at Bethpage Ballpark.

Hayes, who had Tommy John surgery in June 2011, went 0-3 in six games, including four starts, for Bridgeport. He allowed 38 hits and five walks and struck out eight in 201/3 innings. But in four games with the Ducks, including three starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. He has allowed 16 hits, walked two and struck out 10 in 23 innings.

"It's night and day," Hayes said. "It has me wracking my brain trying to figure it out. I'm just happy things are going well. I felt like I fit in right away."

Said Ducks manager Kevin Baez: "He's making adjustments. He knows he's in the starting rotation and maybe that confidence helps. He threw strikes and mixed his angles. He kept hitters off balance. He has to keep the ball down, and he did."

Hayes allowed two runs and three hits in the first inning as the Ducks fell behind 2-0, but they took a 3-2 lead in the third on Ray Navarrete's 15th homer, a two-run shot. They had scored a run in the second when Bryant Nelson singled to left and Joash Brodin scored on an outfield error on the play.

Hayes allowed two hits to begin the fourth before retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. "I was trying to keep the ball down and get ground balls," he said after inducing 11 ground-ball outs. "I missed my spots early and they did a good job hitting. I wasn't off too far and made some adjustments."

The Ducks added four insurance runs in the eighth. A two-run single by Brodin off the leg of pitcher Chris Waters extended the lead to 5-2, making Brodin (3-for-4) 14-for-26 in his last seven games. Kraig Binick added an RBI single and Dan Lyons hit a sacrifice fly. Former Met Armando Benitez pitched the ninth, allowing a walk and a single before retiring the next three to end the game.

After winning the Liberty Division first-half title to earn a postseason berth, the Ducks started the second half 6-16 but have won five of their last seven. They are 11-18 in the second half, 50-48 overall.

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