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Duck Tales: Matt Larkins flirts with no-hitter

Ducks' Matt Larkins delivers against the New Britain

Ducks' Matt Larkins delivers against the New Britain Bees in the first inning at Bethpage Ballpark on Sunday, April 30, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Ducks starter Matt Larkins took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of Thursday night’s 3-1 victory over the Liberty Division-rival Somerset Patriots. A leadoff home run in the ninth by Somerset’s Chris Grayson ended the righthander’s bid for history. It would have been the franchise’s second no-hitter. Rod Henderson threw the team’s only no-no in May 2001.

“Early, I had a really good sinker going, I got them to get some early contact — a lot of quick outs from that,” Larkins said. “The second and third time through, [catcher Alex] Burg did a good job mixing in the slider and changeup. Being able to go off those both back and forth really helped keep them off balance.”

Larkins took a perfect game into the seventh before a two-out walk took that feat off the table.

“I felt good pretty much the whole game. I think I knew pretty much the whole game what was going on,” Larkins said. “It was just one of those nights where I had a really good sinker going — had a lot of movement on it — and then really good command of the other two pitches.”

Larkins said he had faced Grayson in the American Association, another independent league, close to 30 times.

“He always seems to put a good swing on the ball against me and I knew I needed to make a good pitch,” Larkins said. “I threw a good changeup down and away, and he kinda just got enough of it to get it out. I have no problem with the pitch, he just did a good job of hitting it.”

Gotay knows no offseason

Ruben Gotay doesn’t know what an offseason looks like. The 34-year-old baseball lifer plays almost every day, pausing for only a few days here and there. It is a reality for many who don’t belong to the fraternity of the major leagues — go where the games are, no matter the season.

“If I get a chance to play, I’m not going to turn it down,” Gotay said.

Gotay, a utility infielder who played 98 games for the Mets in 2007, re-signed with the Ducks last Saturday after playing in two Puerto Rico leagues during the Atlantic League offseason. As soon as his latest team was eliminated from the playoffs, Gotay reached out to the Ducks, inquiring about a reunion.

“I still wanted to play,” Gotay said. “Once I was done playing baseball back home, I decided to call [Ducks manager Kevin Baez] and [president and general manager Mike Pfaff] to see if they had a spot for me here and they did.”

Gotay hit .275 with seven home runs and 63 RBIs in 107 games with the Ducks last season. As do many of his teammates who returned from last year’s near-championship team (they lost in the Atlantic League Championship Series), he has every intention of finishing the job.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, once you sign with a team, to go all the way to the championship series and win it,” Gotay said. “But we have to take it a game at a time and a series at a time, take care of our business, do our job, and everything will take care of itself . . . I have another chance to help the Ducks go all the way.”

Gotay played parts of four seasons with the Royals, Mets and Braves. He hit .295 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 98 games with the Mets in 2007. All told, his 316 big-league games yielded a .255 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBIs.

After doubling in his first at-bat back with the Ducks last Sunday, Gotay’s production halted. He went 1-for-11 in his first three games, striking out four times and drawing one walk. Still, with the sample size small and the pedigree large, the Ducks are happy to have another major-league veteran on their roster.

“He brings professionalism,” Baez said. “He’s a leader with experience. He’s a good player and a good teammate. He has all those intangibles that you look for in building a team. He can play third, second and first. He’s a good addition.”

O’Grady pitching well

Floral Park native Dennis O’Grady continues to pitch effectively for the Ducks. O’Grady was 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his first 11 games (seven starts) of the season. He ranked 10th on the Atlantic League ERA list, entering play Thursday.

“I’ve been sticking with my routine and knowing what works well for me and what doesn’t,” O’Grady said. “[Catchers Alex Burg and Jordan Pacheco] have been doing a heck of a job back there and I’ve gotten some great defense. It’s been a combination of all those things.”

On deck: Ducks at Lancaster, 2 p.m. Sunday

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