September is the time when teams looking to clinch postseason berths routinely check the out-of-town scoreboard to keep an eye on the competition.
After the Ducks shut out Sugar Land, 2-0, in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday at Bethpage Ballpark, they went into the clubhouse to find out that Somerset, which entered the day 11/2 games ahead of them in the Atlantic League's Liberty Division, also had won their game.
Though the Ducks dropped the second game, 6-2, and fell two games behind in the race for the division title, Somerset's victory wasn't all bad. By virtue of their overall record, the Ducks will make the playoffs as a wild card as long as Somerset, which won the Liberty Division in the first half, wins it again in the second half.
"We definitely played well in the first half, but Somerset was outstanding -- they had 50 wins and we had 46," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "We haven't been as consistent this half, but I told the guys in the first week of the season that those games they were winning were so important. Now we're looking back at how we played in the beginning and it's helping us."
In the first seven-inning game of the day, John Brownell threw his fourth complete game, allowing four hits and striking out eight. He has all four of the Ducks' complete games this season.
"I've just been on the same page with my catchers and the defense has been making a lot of good plays behind me," Brownell said. "I've been able to locate and establish the fastball early and work my secondary pitches off of that."
The Ducks scratched across a run in the third inning when Lew Ford scored on an opposite-field single by Mike Blanke that just skipped under the glove of second baseman Jeff Dominguez.
Elmer Reyes, who signed with the team on Aug. 30, slugged his fourth home run in 12 games to cap the scoring in the fourth.
The second game was tied at 2-2 heading into the seventh inning before Sugar Land loaded the bases with none out. Willy Taveras scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and Johan Limonta followed with a two-run single to right-centerfield to break it open.
"Ultimately we just want to get into the playoffs," Baez said. "We know from past experiences -- we've won when we didn't have such a great year. Once you get in, anything can happen."