Player/coach Lew Ford is managing the Ducks on Saturday while manager...

Player/coach Lew Ford is managing the Ducks on Saturday while manager Wally Backman attended the Mets’ Old-Timer’s Day festivities. Credit: George A Faella

Time is growing short in Central Islip.

At some point, wins have to be delivered and the Ducks know that they have to start shopping for them in bulk. The Ducks entered play Saturday five games behind the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes for the first, and likely only, wild-card spot with 21 games to play. 

A 12-0 victory over the Charleston Dirty Birds on Friday night marked a promising start to a six-game homestand, but the Ducks know they have more work to do to avoid their first playoff-less fall since 2014.

“There's a sense of urgency,” said Lew Ford, who managed the Ducks on Friday and Saturday while Wally Backman attended the Mets’ Old-Timer’s Day festivities.  “We need to finish strong, guys know that.  We're still in it. So, I think the team’s still very motivated to win and know the importance of that. But, there's not a lot of time. We need to start winning right away.”   

Much as it was last year — when the Ducks were able to ride a long June winning streak toward a first half divisional championship — consistency has been a major issue. The Ducks most recent road trip was a perfect microcosm of that. They swept the York Revolution last weekend and then got swept  by the Lancaster Barnstormers during the week. 

“It's not one thing, it's the whole team,” Ford said. “It's the base running,  the defense, the pitching and situational hitting. None of those things we did well (in Lancaster). They all contributed to those losses. They were all close games where, if we do a few of those things better, maybe we'll win those. It's not necessarily one thing. It's definitely an overall team effort.”

Ducks infielder Phil Caulfield had a more positive outlook on the Lancaster series — where the Ducks lost two of the three games by one run. After all, Lancaster has been the best team in the North Division in the second half, carrying a 4 ½ game lead over first-half champion Southern Maryland into Saturday.

“We got a lot of guys on base, our starting pitching was good and our bullpen was good too,” Caulfied said. “(Lancaster was) very timely with what they did.”

But, now is not the time for moral victories. Real ones are much better.

“We know we have to win. It’s the elephant in the room and no one's shying away from that,” Caulfield said. “We know what we need to do and the task at hand going forward. It sounds corny, but it's literally about showing up every day and playing good baseball and we know we’ll be fine.”

Ford was a little more succinct. At 46, he’s not much for cliches. 

“Everybody knows where we're at,” he said. “We just need to play better baseball, much better than we've been playing the last couple games.”

De Aza In hunt for batting title

Former Met Alejandro De Aza has been the biggest bright spot for the Ducks this season. He entered Saturday tied for the league lead in hitting — batting .341 in 94 games (328 at-bats). Lancaster’s Andretty Cordero was also hitting .341 entering play Saturday, but in 111 games (464 at-bats). 

“(De Aza) has great balance at the plate, great strike zone judgment, and knows how to get the barrel to the ball very well,” said Ford, who is also the Ducks’ hitting coach. “Those three things will definitely improve your chance of success and he’s probably the best in the league at doing those things.”

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