The chase for the Atlantic League Liberty Division second-half championship is in full swing, and with less than six weeks to play, it’s a three-team race.
After taking three out of four from the Bridgeport Bluefish this weekend, the Ducks (14-15) pulled to within a half-game of Bridgeport and the Somerset Patriots, who won the first-half title. The winner of each half earns an automatic playoff berth.
The weekend, one that had the potential to put the Ducks in a multi-game hole in the Liberty Division race had it gone poorly, culminated with a 2-1 win over the Bluefish in front of 5,914 fans at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip on Sunday night.
The Bluefish (15-15) cut the Ducks’ lead in half in the top of the ninth inning, but Amalio Diaz retired Tony Abreu and Angel Rosa with the tying and lead runs on base to earn his sixth save.
“These are games that, throughout the season, we haven’t been closing out,” said Patchogue native Anthony Vega, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first start since being hit in the face with an errant throw last weekend. “This might be a turning point for us. I think it is. The attitude is just different. When you win games like this, it changes the narrative. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Elmer Reyes and Alex Burg also had two hits.
Ducks starter Rafael Perez gave up one hit in six innings, struck out three and walked two. Perez, a former Cleveland Indian, retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced and was pulled after throwing 62 pitches.
“His toe has been bothering him,” manager Kevin Baez said. “Nothing major, but he pushed through it and pitched outstanding.”
The Ducks scored their runs in the fourth. Vega delivered an RBI single and Quintin Berry worked a bases-loaded walk to force in Burg.
Bridgeport starting pitcher Charles Brewer allowed two runs, five hits and five walks and struck out four in five innings.
With a hair under six weeks remaining, the question remains this: Do the Ducks, who struggled with inconsistency throughout the first half, have a run in them?