The Ducks had plenty of hits and scored plenty of runs. They hit three home runs. But they didn’t need all that offense Sunday afternoon.
They had John Brownell, and — as has been the case so many times during the Ducks’ all-time innings-pitched leader’s career — that’s all they needed.
Brownell was downright masterful while throwing a four-hitter in the Ducks’ 9-1 win over the Sugar Land Skeeters in front of 4,648 damp fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip.
The win brought the Ducks (24-19) to within a half-game of the Somerset Patriots for first place in the Liberty Division first-half standings. The first-half winner earns an automatic playoff berth.
Brownell, who struck out seven and walked one, tied Randy Leek’s franchise records for games started (91) and wins (40). Brownell is in his fifth year with the Ducks.
After a 29-minute rain delay pushed the game’s first pitch back to a little after 2 p.m., the righthander allowed a first-inning run on Jeremy Barfield’s RBI single. Then Brownell retired 25 of the final 28 batters he faced.
“I felt like my stuff was working right off the bat,” he said. “We threw a lot of first-pitch curveballs, a majority of them for strikes, to get them off the fastball and not able to jump early in the count.”
Fehlandt Lentini, Cody Puckett, and former Met Ruben Gotay homered for the Ducks. Dan Lyons had four hits and scored two runs. Lentini had three hits and scored three runs.
Two of the Ducks’ three homers came in a three-run third inning. With one out and no one on, Lentini cracked a 1-and-2 pitch to leftfield to break a 1-1 tie. Three batters later, Puckett’s two-run blast on a 2-and-1 pitch put the Ducks ahead 4-1.
“I had two strikes on me and was just trying to see the ball,” Lentini said. “I wanted to make sure I saw it out of his hand before I decided to take a swing. It was down and in and I tried to put the barrel on it.”
The Ducks added two runs in the fifth when Lentini scored on Mike Blanke’s forceout and Blake Tekotte’s RBI double drove in Lyons. Gotay homered on a 3-and-2 pitch to lead off the seventh.
Parker Frazier took the loss for Sugar Land (23-21). Frazier allowed six runs, 10 hits and a walk and struck out five in five innings.