Not even the ageless Lew Ford could boost the Ducks’ aging playoff hopes Sunday.
Ford, who turned 46 on Friday, homered twice, but the Ducks fell to the Charleston Dirty Birds, 10-6, at Fairfield Properties Ballpark.
The Ducks (49-52) lost two of three to Charleston this weekend after completing a 5-7 road trip. They are five games behind the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes for the first — and perhaps only — wild-card spot with 31 games to play.
The wild card comes into play if a first-half division winner also wins the second half. It appears likely that the Gastonia Honey Hunters will win the South Division again, opening up a spot for the non-division winner with the best overall record.
Ford’s first home run was a two-run shot in the first inning to open the scoring. He hit a solo blast in the fourth to tie the score at 6.
Charleston scored a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly and another in the seventh on a controversial balk call against reliever Edubray Ramos. Manager Wally Backman was ejected after arguing the call.
Backman was one of three Ducks thrown out by plate umpire Derrick Brooks. Joe DeCarlo and starting pitcher Joe Iorio (who was out of the game by that point) were ejected after DeCarlo was called out on strikes in the eighth. The Ducks were frustrated by Brooks throughout the game and it came to a head in the eighth.
“It’s bad [expletive] umpiring,” Backman said. “I’m not going to say everybody’s bad but, as a group, it’s not good baseball . . . I could go over 40 pitches if you look at [the gamecast] that were missed. It ruins the game of baseball.”
Backman said he wasn’t frustrated only with Brooks but with umpiring across the league.
“It’s been terrible all year long,” he said. “Why is there not enough people to umpire? . . . It’s a shame. I don’t know if all the other leagues are like this. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been in baseball since I was 17 years old. I’m 62 and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
He added: “It’s partially ruined the Atlantic League and the respect that we have for being a great league. [They] better get better umpires. It’s not my job to get those umpires. It is somebody’s job and they need to do it.”
After Ford homered in the first, Charleston answered with four runs in the second and two in the third for a 6-3 lead.
An RBI single by Carlos Castro and a throwing error in the third brought the Ducks within 6-5 and set up Ford’s tying blast in the fourth.