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Ducks’ Jake Dunning throwing strikes in rotation now

Ducks relief pitcher Jake Dunning enters the game

Ducks relief pitcher Jake Dunning enters the game during the 7th inning against the Bridgeport Bluefish at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip on Aug 6, 2017. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Yes, Quackerjack, there will be playoff baseball in Central Islip this year.

Thanks to the Somerset Patriots, who defeated the Bridgeport Bluefish, 5-2, on Saturday night, the Ducks clinched the Liberty Division second-half championship and a third consecutive playoff berth.

The Ducks — who lost to Sugar Land, 5-3, on Saturday night after the Bluefish lost — will host Somerset in the first two games of the best-of-five Liberty Division Championship Series on Wednesday and Thursday nights at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip. The series will shift to Bridgewater, New Jersey, for the third game on Friday and potential fourth and fifth games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Somerset won the first-half title.

It’s the 12th half-season title for the Ducks. They last won the second half in 2013, the same year as their last Atlantic League title. The Ducks clawed back from an 0-2 deficit against Somerset in the 2016 Liberty Division Championship Series to win in five and were swept by Sugar Land in the Atlantic League Championship Series.

Dunning in rotation

Jake Dunning doesn’t much care when he gets the ball as long as he’s firing it in the strike zone. The righthander has made the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation, and all indications from manager Kevin Baez are that he’ll stay there in the postseason.

Dunning, a former San Francisco Giant, signed with the Ducks on July 14 and entered Saturday night 2-2 with a 3.37 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 14 walks in 13 appearances, including six starts (42 2⁄3 innings).

“I’ve come into the zone pretty well,” said Dunning, 29. “I go in and throw strikes. I’m not really walking guys. The last couple of games, I was beat on a couple of homers, but other than that, I’m trying to get early contact and get ground balls for this team.”

Dunning spent a small part of two seasons with the Giants. He was 0-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 30 relief appearances.

Major stepping-stone

The Ducks are quickly becoming a career rehabilitation factory. The Phillies called up pitcher Henderson Alvarez from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, making him the third player to suit up for a major league team after playing for the Ducks this season.

Alvarez made seven starts with the Ducks and was 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA. The former NL All-Star is scheduled to start Sunday against Oakland.

Tim Melville, who made nine starts for the Ducks in the first half, had his contract purchased by the Twins on June 10 and was called up to the majors on Aug. 21. Melville made one start for Minnesota, allowed five runs in 3 1⁄3 innings and was waived. After the Padres picked up Melville on Aug. 26, he went back to Triple-A and has not pitched at the major-league level for San Diego.

Quintin Berry, a former World Series champion with the 2013 Red Sox whose contract was purchased by the Brewers on Aug. 17, was called up Sept. 5. Entering Saturday, he had played in two games. Berry played in 27 games for the Ducks and hit .228 with nine RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

Alvarez was the 18th player in Ducks history to be called up to the majors after playing on Long Island. Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill is the most famous recent example. Hill made two starts with the Ducks in 2015 and signed a three-year, $48-million contract last winter.


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