CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Come the end of the season, Johnny Hernandez’s 11th inning RBI single that lead to a 4-3 win over Bridgeport Thursday night might be a footnote or a key victory that can determine a wild card berth.
In the meantime, the Ducks will settle for a win after trailing 3-0 in the eighth. The Ducks scored twice in the ninth to send it to extras before Hernandez brought home John Pachot with the winning run against Jonathan Plefka (1-1).
Down two runs in the ninth, Victor Rodriguez reached on a one-out error when Todd Davison bobbled the ball. Two base hits sandwiched around strikeouts put the tying runs on base and both advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch.
Pachot then hit a grounder down the third base line that Luis Lopez snared with a backhander. Rather than holding it, Lopez tried the low-percentage throw and his attempt skipped past first base, allowing Kyle Reynolds to score the inning’s second unearned run and tie the score at 3.
Manager Gary Carter nearly was ejected the next batter when Pachot, after advancing to second on another wild pitch, raced home from second when Juan
Francia punched a single to left. The strong throw resulted in a bang-bang play and an out call, which caused Carter to jump in the air and scream in frustrating at what could have been the game-winning run.
A power surge temporarily knocked out the left-center field lights with two outs in the top of the sixth and the ensuing 1:08 delay ended a pitching duel prematurely. Cate and Bridgeport’s Kyle Jackson each allowed one base hit each before the rain swept over Citibank Park, leaving it to the bullpens.
Bridgeport finally opened the scoring with a three-run seventh, spoiling Cate’s dominating effort as the Bluefish posted a 3-0 victory. Cate struck out eight and walked just one in 5 2/3 innings. The lefty retired the first 10 Bluefish and faced the minimum through five innings before giving up a leadoff sixth inning walk.
Cate then struck out the next two batters before the delay. The left-center lights and scoreboard flashed on and off before the second strike on Shea Harris.
Harris stayed at bat and struck out on the next pitch just as the lights went out in the scoreless game.
At that point the umpires called for the tarp as lightning flashed. Rain pelted the field for the next hour and Ron Flores was on the mound in relief of Cate when the teams returned 68 minutes later.
Flores got out of the sixth by inducing a pop out on one pitch. Yet the Ducks couldn’t muster any more offense despite the Bluefish going to the bullpen. Jackson picked up a no-decision, allowing one hit in five innings, striking out four while issuing zero walks.
The Ducks (34-29) trail first-place Southern Maryland by 5 1/2 games with seven games left for the first-half crown. All records re-set at the midway point, though the remaining first half games are still important should the Blue Crabs win the second half pennant as the best overall record determines a wild card entry.
Bridgeport (29-35) finally generated offense with the first four batters reaching base to start the seventh. Jesse Hoorelbeke lined a single to following a leadoff double and walk, loading the bases against the Ducks Rob Paulk.
With the infield playing in to cut off the run at home, Brandon Sing’s grounder skipped through the left side to plate Todd Davison with the first run while chasing Paulk. Jason Norderum came in and got a key strikeout before walking former Duck Ron Davenport to force in a run. Hoorelbeke scored Bridgeport’s third and final run on a wild pitch to cap the rally.
Cate’s effort came two days after the Ducks released Opening Day starter Brad Halsey. Halsey, a fellow southpaw, was 3-5 with a 5.86 ERA before his departure.
Julio Manon is the closest the Ducks have come to finding an ace, posting a 3-1 record and a rotation-best 3.29 ERA. Cate is the only Ducks starter with an ERA less than 4, making him a candidate to take over the No. 2 rotation spot and provide a lefty complement to Manon.
Halsey never found the consistency and didn’t miss many bats, allowing left-handed hitters to bat a collective .325 against
him. The former Yankee prospect was jettisoned July 1 after allowing 73 hits in just 58 1/3 innings. Catcher Jamie Quinn, the team’s bullpen catcher, took Halsey’s roster spot after backup catcher Rob Sandora is out day-to-day with soreness in his leg.