Dustin Woodcock tied a Ducks record when he hit three...

Dustin Woodcock tied a Ducks record when he hit three home runs in a game against the Lexington Legends on Wednesday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

As the calendar inches toward August, late September baseball is not guaranteed for the Ducks. Thanks in part to a stop-and-go May and a nothing-but-go Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the Ducks fell way short of an Atlantic League first half championship and, with it, an automatic playoff spot.

But, at least for now, the uphill climb is a little less steep. The second half is underway and the Ducks believe that they are primed for a run at one of the final playoff spots.

“I think everybody in the clubhouse knows that we have a very good lineup and a very good pitching staff, and we’re just trying to put it all together,” outfielder Dustin Woodcock said. “Once we do that, it’s going to be really hard to beat us.” 

The start to the second half hasn’t exactly been world beating — with the Ducks at 3-6, tied for last place in the North Division entering play Saturday. This time, it’s the Lancaster Barnstormers — at 8-1 — who are off to the blazing fast start.

But, nine games is only that — nine games — and Ducks manager Wally Backman said he believes multiple former major leaguers will be brought in shortly, transforming a team that has struggled with offensive consistency.

“I think it’s a better team, and it’s going to be a better team in a few days,” Backman said. “I think it’s good enough to win now, but the offense has to be more consistent. We have to run the bases better, stay away from making the stupid mental mistakes.”

The Ducks sputtered to a 10-16 record in May — the season’s first real month — but rebounded by going 18-9 in June. The Ducks finished the first half 36-30, certainly not bad by most measures — only it was 12 games worse than the Blue Crabs, who finished 48-18.

“I don’t think the first half was bad, definitely some ups and downs,” Woodcock said. “But, having a fresh start in the second half, I think we’re going to do really good things.”

Woodcock’s record-tying night

Woodcock hit three home runs in the Ducks’ 11-6 loss to the Lexington Legends on Wednesday, tying Ray Navarrete’s franchise  record for homers in a game. Woodcock, a first-year Duck, said he’s never accomplished that feat.

“I just kind of simplified my approach,” he said. “I was talking to a couple of the guys and was just trying to hit balls hard, instead of picking zones of the plate.”

Woodcock added that he wasn’t necessarily zeroed in on the possibility of a third home run after he hit his second, it was just a good night getting better.

“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and hit a ball hard,” Woodcock said. “It happened to go over.”

Woodcock, who has played his way into an everyday role with the Ducks, led the team with 10 home runs entering play Saturday.

Tarpley returns

Former Yankees and Mets pitcher Stephen Tarpley returned to the Ducks, less than a week after having his contract purchased by the Giants. Tarpley did not pass his physical with the Giants, who were concerned about a bone spur in his elbow, Backman said.

“He has a bone spur that’s not bothering him,” Backman said. “The Giants thought it was high risk. It doesn’t bother him at all. It’s something that’s a very minor surgery anyway, if he has to get it fixed.”

Tarpley, who had his elbow cleaned last June and missed the rest of the season, has been a revelation for the Ducks. Entering the weekend, he was 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 13 appearances (54 2/3 innings), nine of which were starts.

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