Matt Larkins spent the regular season carving out a reputation as the Ducks’ best pitcher. On Thursday night, he may have helped to save their season.
Larkins pitched effectively in the Ducks’ 4-1 victory over the Somerset Patriots in Game 2 of the Liberty Division Championship Series in front of 3,544 fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip. The best-of-five series shifts to Somerset tied at 1.
“We needed this game,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “You don’t want to go to Somerset down 0-2.’’
Larkins allowed a run and four hits but walked a season-high seven in 5 2⁄3 innings. He threw 117 pitches, one off his season high, and left with the bases loaded. Rob Rogers induced Alfredo Rodriguez to fly out to rightfield, ending the threat.
Baez called the out obtained by Rogers the “biggest at-bat of the game.”
“[Larkins] battled and made pitches when he needed to,’’ Baez said, “but he just looked like he was getting gassed towards the end. Once he walked two in the sixth, Rogers came in and did a great job.”
Said Larkins, “I don’t think there was a lot of pressure, but it definitely felt like a lot of adrenaline was going. I was a little more amped up. I had a lot more life on my ball and it was probably because it was a big game for us.”
A night after looking anemic at the plate, the Ducks woke up. Lew Ford’s first-inning single drove in Giovanny Alfonzo for a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Alex Burg scored on a wild pitch and Elmer Reyes’ single drove in Delta Cleary Jr.
A pair of two-out walks in the fifth led to the end of Larkins’ shutout bid. Kyle Roller’s single drove in Rodriguez to cut the Ducks’ lead to 3-1. Burg led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to make it 4-1.
The Ducks, who had struggled offensively for most of September, chased the Patriots’ Mike Antonini after four innings. He allowed three runs and seven hits.
The bullpen made sure the lead held up. Former Red Sox reliever Dustin Richardson worked a perfect seventh, striking out Roller and David Vidal. James Jones pitched a scoreless eighth before Amalio Diaz earned the save.
With the series shifting to New Jersey on Friday night, the Ducks will start newly acquired Jake Fisher (0-0, 2.76 ERA).
“We’ve played well there all year,’’ Larkins said. “We’re a confident bunch right now and I think we’ll be fine.”