CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Gary Carter embraced Julio Manon just outside the manager’s office in the Citibank Park clubhouse. Moments after the Ducks wasted a two-run eighth inning lead in a 4-2 defeat to Camden, the manager tried to lift the spirits of his starting pitcher.
“You deserved to win,” Carter said to Manon, who had a large ice bag strapped across his right arm.
The Ducks bullpen didn’t live up to its reputation as the team’s lone season-long strength, costing Manon a win while dealing another blow to the club’s first-half division title chances.
A rare lapse from set-up man Joe Valentine and closer Bill Simas allowed Camden to score twice in the eighth and ninth innings, capped by Brian Burgamy’s two-run homer in the last inning to move the Ducks to 22-23; the first time since May 28 the team dropped below .500.
“It’s a shame it turned out the way it did,” Carter said. “Julio pitched an outstanding game but I have enough confidence in my bullpen and I’m going to go back to them when I need them.”
Manon celebrated his 36th birthday by throwing seven scoreless innings. Fredrick Torres finally got to the former Montreal Expos pitcher in the eighth, taking him deep with one out to end his shutout bid. A single brought in Valentine, who entered with a 1.40 ERA. But a single through the right side put runners on the corners before Jon Knott ripped a RBI double off the rightfield wall to tie the score at 2.
Simas, who carried a 1.89 ERA, got the first out in the ninth before allowing a single. Burgamy entered with a .189 average and Simas allowed just one home run. Burgamy got the better of the matchup, ripping a full-count fastball to the row of advertisements beyond the rightfield wall for a crushing two-run homer. The Ducks remained 5 games behind the Liberty Division-leading Blue Crabs.
Manon made just his season’s fourth start and worked into the eighth inning for a third straight outing. Matt Cavagnaro scored twice thanks to RBIs from Estee Harris and Ray Navarrete, staking the ex-Oriole to a 2-0 lead into the late innings.
On an overcast and cool night, Manon prevented Camden from squaring the ball, inducing 15 fly ball outs. Manon said he shrugged off the loss and supports the relievers who have kept the Ducks from falling out of the division race.
“We’re all one group and we’re all trying to do our best,” Manon said. “Whatever happened out there, we’re not meaning for it to happen. It just happened, that’s the way the game is.”
Last week’s seven game road trip featured series against the league’s worst two teams. The Ducks won two of three from Bridgeport but dropped three of four against last-place York, finishing the trip 2-4. Camden is just one game above .500 and have won two of the first three games in the series, meaning the Ducks are missing opportunities to surge up the standings.
Injuries also are mounting. Randy Leek, last year’s wins leader, is still out with an oblique injury and Preston Wilson is still recovering after getting hit in the face with a pitch. The Ducks offense is sputtering, scoring just 10 runs the past five games.
“I view those games as several missed chances,” Carter said. “We needed to capitalize against Bridgeport and York. Maybe the [upcoming] All-Star break will be a blessing in disguise because our guys have been pretty banged up and we’ve been doing it with mirrors, basically.”