Rich Hill wasted no time introducing himself to the Atlantic League. The former Yankees reliever started against the Bridgeport Bluefish on Sunday and pitched five no-hit innings in the Ducks' 4-3 victory at Bethpage Ballpark. The lefthander, who was perfect until he walked Sean Burroughs with two outs in the fifth, struck out seven and was removed after 68 pitches.
"He was going five innings no matter what," Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. "His last start was [three seasons] ago. He was gassed."
The Ducks' bullpen followed Hill's lead, as J.C. Romero and Nick Struck held the Bluefish hitless until Luis Rodriguez singled off Donnie Veal with two outs in the eighth.
It was the second time this season that the Ducks (9-14) have come within four outs of a no-hitter. Mickey Jannis took a no-hit bid into the eighth on June 2.
It wasn't all easy. Ducks closer Ryan Kussmaul allowed two runs in the ninth without recording an out. The final batter Kussmaul faced, Wilson Batista, singled to put the tying run on base.
After Patrick Crider entered the game, Batista moved to second on Burroughs' sacrifice bunt but was stranded there when Rodriguez grounded out and Brandon Jones struck out. It was Crider's first save of the year.
"That last out is usually the hardest," Baez said. "It seems like the wins are coming harder right now. You want to get that attitude of winning. To let this one slip away from us would have been hard."
Dan Lyons hit two solo home runs for the Ducks, who took a 2-0 lead on Jon Griffin's two-run homer in the second.
Lyons' first home run was a mammoth blast in the third, as he launched a 2-and-0 pitch over the 24-foot-high promotional signs in leftfield.
"It's been a while since I connected on a pitch like that," he said. "I was just looking for a pitch I could drive. I had a favorable count. I was looking for one pitch in one spot, and I got it."
Lyons' second home run came on a 1-and-1 pitch in the sixth and put the Ducks up 4-0. It was his eighth homer of the season, a career high.
Once the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, Lyons batted second and might continue to hit in the top of the lineup.
"I might even move him to the three [spot]," Baez said. "He's been doing a great job."
Bridgeport starter Matt Iannazzo took the loss, allowing four runs in 71/3 innings.