The Ducks have bought in on starting pitcher Matt Larkins. Acquired late last season, Larkins made only two regular season starts before the playoffs began. Now, two starts into a new season, the 28-year old Moscow, Idaho native is showing that he is no longer a playoff rental.
Larkins, who was pitching on three days rest because of the Ducks being forced to play two doubleheaders last week, worked five scoreless innings in the Ducks’ 5-1 loss to the New Britain Bees in front of 4,616 fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip Sunday afternoon.
Larkins allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two.
“I felt pretty good,” Larkins said. “I came out and threw strikes well, early. I got a little tired at the end, but I came out, felt really good, and wanted to give it as much as I could for as long as I could.”
Larkins’ exit was the best thing to happen to the Bees. Conor Bierfeldt launched a two-run home run off Patrick Crider in the sixth to give the Bees a 2-0 lead. The Bees added three more in the seventh, including a two-run homer by Michael Crouse. Starting pitcher Anthony Marzi pitched five scoreless innings and earned the win for New Britain (4-5).
Cody Puckett was the only Duck with multiple hits, going 2-for-4. Puckett has reached base safely in all nine games he has played this season.
Larkins, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in either of his starts, worked around a leadoff triple in the fourth and a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth to keep the Bees scoreless. Fehlandt Lentini threw out Paul Kronenfeld at the plate with one out in the fifth to preserve Larkins’ unblemished afternoon.
The Ducks bats, as they had been for a majority of the home-opening weekend set, remained quiet throughout. In three games against New Britain, the Ducks only scored in three innings. But it was not for lack of trying. The Ducks hit two balls hard in the fourth, with both finding New Britain gloves. Marc Krauss skied a pitch to deep leftfield that was caught by a running Bierfeldt and Angelo Songco smoked a line drive toward rightfield that was snagged by jumping second baseman Michael Baca.
Lentini scored the Ducks’ lone run on a wild pitch in the sixth.
In a league where winning the first half title is so important, with the champion earning an automatic bid in the playoffs, the Ducks (4-6) know that extreme patience with a stalling offense is not something they can afford.
“These games are so important,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “You don’t want to say, ‘Oh, we have time.’ No, we don’t have time. If you want to win the first half, the games in April and early May are so important. It’s whoever gets hot out of the gate.”
East Meadow native Tyler Levine, who was signed Friday, pitched a scoreless ninth in his Ducks debut.
“I came here as a kid with my father [Robert], so it means a lot to me,” said Levine, who played at East Meadow High School and SUNY- Old Westbury.