BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Everything went right for the Ducks in the first two games of the Liberty Division Championship Series. And while not exactly everything went wrong in Game 3, more than enough did to prevent a clinching party for at least another night. The Ducks blew a two-run lead and fell, 8-4, to the Somerset Patriots on Friday night in front of 8,143 fans at TD Bank Ballpark.
The Ducks now lead the best-of-five series, 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday night.
The Patriots scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead for good and present the first bit of adversity to the Ducks, who won the first two games by a combined 17 runs.
Daniel Fields struck out with the tying run in the on-deck circle.
Ducks starter Brett Marshall pitched five solid innings, but ran into trouble early in the sixth that, with the help of the Ducks bullpen, snowballed into a Patriots win. Jayce Boyd’s RBI single to left off Ducks reliever Jose Cuas drove in Craig Massey with the eventual winning run.
Earlier in the sixth, with the score tied at 3, Ducks manager Kevin Baez was ejected when second-base umpire Jorge Teran ruled that Dan Lyons missed the bag on a wide throw by Cuas that would have been the second out of the inning.
Baez, who rarely displays a temper of that magnitude on the field, kicked dirt on the bag before picking it out of the ground and throwing it into leftfield.
Baez said he saw video after the game that confirmed it was a bad call
“I knew it was a big moment in the game,” Baez said. “It was first and second with one out, as opposed to two outs and a man on first. It changes everything and that’s what I tried to explain to [Teran]. You have to be 100-percent sure making that call right there. He said he got it and I kept telling him he didn’t get in. Unfortunately, it went against us.
“You try to minimize damage and get the outs when you have to get the outs ... Right there, we got the out and it wasn’t given to us.”
The Ducks then imploded. Yovan Gonzalez scored on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded to give the Patriots a 4-3 lead.
The Patriots scored three more runs in the bottom of the seventh to break the game open.
“We understand that it’s disappointing [to lose] and we got to put it behind us and come out tomorrow ready to go,” Baez said.
“It’s just one of those things, the ball didn’t bounce our way this time," first baseman David Washington said. "You give them a lot of credit, they put together a lot of great at-bats, especially in the sixth, and they were able to break through.”
Marshall allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked two.
Marshall, whom the Ducks acquired late in the season, almost didn’t make it past the opening batter. He suffered an apparent arm injury as he dove across the first-base line and flipped the ball behind his back to get the opening batter of the frame, Massey. Marshall walked the next batter, Alfredo Rodriguez, on five pitches but then retired the next seven batters. He allowed two two-out singles in the third, but got former Met Endy Chavez to fly out to center to end the inning.
Marshall allowed the first two batters of the bottom of the fourth inning to reach base, but induced two straight fielder's choice and watched leftfielder Rubi Silva make a great running catch to snag the third out and keep the Patriots scoreless.
Washington launched a two-run home run with one out in the top of the fourth to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead. Washington appears to have gotten hot at the right time. The slugger hit two three-run homers in the Ducks’ 11-1 Game 2 victory on Long Island on Thursday night.
“I’m just trying to put together good at-bats, trying to see the ball well," Washington said. "I was able to get into a good count, got a pitch I could handle, and got the barrel to it.”
The Ducks cut the lead to 5-4 in the seventh when Jordany Valdespin scored on Fields’ bloop single to right, but would score no more.
Ondrusek goes on DL
The Ducks’ deep bullpen took a hit Friday morning when the team put former Red Logan Ondrusek on the disabled list with an arm injury. He is done for the postseason, Ducks manager Kevin Baez said before Friday night’s Game 3 of the Liberty Division Championship Series against the Somerset Patriots at TD Bank Ballpark.
Baez described the injury as “forearm tightness.” Baez said that, despite the injury appearing toward the end of the regular season, it did not appear serious and Ondrusek was available for Games 1 and 2 on Long Island. Thanks to lopsided Ducks victories in both games, he was not needed.
“About a week ago, he was feeling it a little bit, but nothing major,” Baez said. “He threw on [Sept. 12] in Sugar Land, so we just thought it would be a couple days and we’d see how it goes.”
Once it became evident that Ondrusek wasn’t responding to rest, the roster move was made. In order to fill Ondrusek’s spot, the Ducks acquired righthanded reliever Thomas Nicoll from the Normal (Illinois) Cornbelters of the independent Frontier League. Trades during the playoffs are allowed in the Atlantic League when an injury occurs.
The Ducks signed Ondrusek on July 25 in a move that started the team’s bullpen renaissance. He was 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA, struck out 28 and walked eight in 20 appearances covering 21 1/3 innings. He was a major piece of the bridge to closer Francisco Rodriguez.
“It’s big,” Baez said. “He’s one of our back-end guys that have been pitching well for us. It’s definitely not a good thing, but one thing that’s good is that guys like [Carlos] Pimentel, [Jose] Cuas, and [Ashur] Tolliver have been pitching well. They need to step up.”
The Ducks’ bullpen has been a bit of a secret weapon this series. That is, they haven’t needed it. Dominant pitching performances from starters Matt Larkins and Jake Fisher, in conjunction with nine runs in Game 1 and 11 in Game 2, made the bullpen strength moot.
But it is still there. Fernando Abad pitched a scoreless seventh inning in Game 1 and was 1-0 with a 0.48 ERA in 19 regular-season appearances. Taylor Grover, acquired Sept. 5 from the Chicago Dogs of the independent American Association, allowed one run and struck out seven in six regular-season appearances with the Ducks. Grover pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Game 1.
“Abad’s been pitching outstanding,” Baez said. “Ideally, it’s Abad in the eighth and Rodriguez in the ninth. It’s that sixth and seventh that we have to fill in.”
Nicoll was 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA, 31 strikeouts and only four walks in 19 appearances with Normal. Because the Frontier League finishes its season before the Atlantic League, Nicoll hasn’t pitched since Sept. 1 and was coaching high school baseball in Florida when the Ducks called Wednesday.
“I’m definitely in game shape,” Nicoll said. “I don’t have any doubt in myself. If I put my mind to it, I’m going to do it.”