CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Newark enjoyed a name-recognition advantage entering Sunday’s game against the Ducks, sporting a lineup featuring seven former major leaguers and a starter who also enjoyed success at the top level.
The Ducks countered with just two such players but still put a big league hurting on the Bears, torching six Newark pitchers for 19 hits and two home runs in a 17-6 blowout win in a Citibank Park matinee.
Estee Harris drilled his second grand slam of the season, breaking the game open with his fifth-inning bases-clearing blast to right as part of a five-RBI afternoon. Alex Prieto went 3-4 with a homer, four runs scored and three RBIs. Every Ducks starting position player registered a base hit by the fifth inning, chasing Newark starter and former Yankee Shawn Chacon.
“When we get on base, the other guys bring us in,” Prieto said. “When one guy starts hitting, everyone starts hitting again. Right now, we’re doing pretty well.”
Prieto and Juan Francia went a combined 5-8 with five runs scored and five RBIs batting in the eighth and ninth position, marking the second straight game the bottom of the order has served as the offensive catalyst.
“When you get the bottom part of the lineup going, you’re going to have a day like today and score 17 runs,” manager Gary Carter said.
Jake Dittler continued to solidify
his spot as a back-of-the-rotation contributor, going 5 1/3 innings in allowing six runs to pick up the win as the Ducks extended its winning streak to four. The Ducks capped an eight-game homestand with five wins before heading to Somerset for a four-game series against the Atlantic League’s best team.
“We’re looking to get that production from the middle of the lineup,” Carter said. “This was a big series for us, no question about it.
“To win three games against a powerhouse like Newark was a big plus for us. Guys are swinging the bats and it seems like we’re starting to jell at the right time.”
Entering Friday, the Ducks sputtering offense mustered just 11 runs in six games. Preston Wilson is still out until at least Monday, though the club continues to
batter Atlantic League pitching without the former All-Star. The Ducks have scored 32 runs the past three contests, staying three games behind first place Southern Maryland.
Harris broke the game
open in the Ducks six-run fifth inning. After working the count to 3-0 against lefty Cory Willey, Harris took a strike and sat on a fastball, whipping the bat through the zone to pull the ball hard over the rightfield wall. Harris’ fifth home run helped the Ducks turn a three-run cushion into a 12-3 edge.
“The previous at-bat against him, he didn’t go to his breaking ball,” Harris said. “He kept feeding me fastballs so I figured he would try it again.”
The offensive onslaught comes at a time when the Ducks are getting its rotation back healthy and productive. Combined with Southern Maryland losing its staff ace and closer to major league organizations this week and the Ducks are hitting its peak with just eight days left before the All-Star break.
Opening Day starter Brad Halsey looked dominate in his last start and 2008 wins leader Randy Leek threw two scoreless innings in relief Saturday in his first game back since being sidelined with an oblique injury.
Troy Cate started that game and allowed just one run in five innings as he works his way back from a groin injury and Dittler stayed aggressive when staked to a big lead. Newark took advantage of the pitches in the zone, driving up Dittler’s run total thanks to Andres Perez’s three-run home run in the sixth. The right-hander also had to sit through long innings and his manager said that prevented him from staying loose.
“He was upset about the three-run home run but for the most part, he was keeping the ball down,” Carter said. “With a pretty big lead, he wasn’t afraid to come in and throw strikes.”
The Ducks jumped out to a 6-0 lead, scoring once in the first and five runs in the second in which 10 batters came to the plate. Chacon needed 27 pitches to get out of the first and fired 32 in the next inning before Newark manager Tim Raines pulled the ex-Yankee and Colorado Rockies starter. The Ducks also shelled Chacon in another slugfest victory May 18 at home.
Every Ducks position player except Johnny Hernandez scored at least one run. The rightfielder still got into the action, driving in two runs in a 2-5 effort.
“When everyone is hitting like that, I don’t feel like a middle guy,” Harris said. “You don’t feel like it’s an extra burden. Everyone is doing what they need to do out there. It makes it easier on everyone.”