The Long Island Ducks made two errors on the same play in the eighth inning, which made a long afternoon drag on that much longer. That is the bad news.
The good news? Despite an 8-3 loss to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Sunday at Bethpage Ballpark, the Ducks still lead the Liberty Division by four games with 20 games left in the season's first half.
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"We played some sloppy baseball, and the ball bounced their way a little bit," said Ray Navarrete, who went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .342. "It was a big game for us. Although we're in first place, this was an opportunity to really extend the gap."
The Blue Crabs (25-25) mounted a three-run, two-out rally in the fifth. Ducks rightfielder Shawn Williams lost a fly ball in the sun that scored Casey Benjamin from first. Williams' misplay proved costly, as Brian Barton and Mike Daniel added RBI singles later in the inning to give Southern Maryland a 6-1 lead.
Ducks starter Mike Loree exited after the fifth, having allowed 10 hits.
"After winning the first two out of three, you feel good about your chances to win three out of four with Loree [3-2, 4.29 ERA] on the mound," manager Kevin Baez said. "But that's why you play the game."
Bryant Nelson (2-for-4) ripped an RBI double down the leftfield line in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Ducks' deficit to 6-2. Williams followed with an RBI groundout that scored Brandon Sing (2-for-4).
But the comeback bid was short-lived, as the two-out bug bit the Ducks (29-21) again in the eighth. Reliever Connor Graham retired the inning's first two batters before allowing consecutive walks. Benjamin hit a routine grounder to second baseman Wilberto Ortiz, who bounced a throw past Sing as Paco Figueroa scored from second.
Then Sing committed a throwing error attempting to nail Chin-Lung Hu at third. Hu trotted home for Southern Maryland's eighth run.
"Sometimes, it's just not your day," Navarrete said. "The good news is we have a day off, and now we have to get ready for an important road trip."
Notes & quotes: RHP Armando Benitez (back spasms) was placed on the inactive list Friday . . . C Mitch Canham was signed after being released by the Cardinals organization. He batted .125 in 18 games with Triple-A Memphis . . . DH Matt Esquivel left the game in third inning after rolling over his hand during an at-bat . . . With a past-capacity crowd of 6,290, the Ducks posted their third consecutive sellout and sixth of the season.