Ducks Stay Perfect In Second Half

CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Gary Carter’s usual in-game commute entails walking from dugout to home plate before the game and to and from the third base coach’s box.

Carter extended his trip yesterday for two prolonged arguments after the three-man umpiring crew overturned two controversial calls. One call went for the home team and the other helped Southern Maryland, though the Ducks second-half success rate stayed perfect as George Lombard belted two home runs in his debut in a 6-2 win over the Blue Crabs Sunday at Citibank Park.

Lombard, a former Braves outfielder, logged four RBIs and three runs scored to help the Ducks improve to 3-0 in the second half while moving his team in position to claim a four-game sweep over a team that clinched a playoff berth by winning the Liberty Division’s first half crown.

“I haven’t played in over two months or seen live pitching,” Lombard

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said. “You have nothing to lose. Just go out there and do what you’ve done for 15 years.

“I’m excited to have a uniform on and would like to get back to Major League Baseball. It’s just another obstacle people throw at you.”

Lombard broke open a 2-all tie with his three-run home run in the sixth in his 3-4 evening. That shot to right off Southern Maryland starter Keith Ramsey ended an inning that started in bizarre fashion. Ray Navarrete’s hard-hit ball down the third base line appeared to land foul, though umpire Mike Edwards ruled it fair and Navarrete slid into second for an apparent leadoff double.

But Blue Crabs manager Butch Hobson and other fielders argued the call and Edwards put up his hands to signal foul ball—reversing his decision without consulting other crew members. That prompted Carter to get into a heated argument, though the Hall of Fame catcher was not ejected.

“No, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Carter said. “If you make a call, you got to stick by it. If you reverse it, without getting help, well, that’s the wrong thing.”

Navarrete flew out to center before the Ducks made the matter moot. Preston Wilson and Victor Rodriguez lined back-to-back singles before the lefty-hitting Lombard took Ramsey deep to put the Ducks ahead, 5-2.

Lombard added a eighth-inning insurance run, elevating a line drive that hooked just inside the rightfield foul ball. First base umpire Dan Wilson ruled the ball foul before Carter argued. This time, Wilson conferred with home plate umpire Dave Perry and the call was changed to a home run.

After the records re-set at the 140-game regular season’s midway point, the Ducks have outscored Southern Maryland 17-5 to move to 3-0. Randy Leek and Julio Manon provided two stellar starts to begin the second-half and lefty starter Troy Cate made it three strong starts in a row, allowing just two runs (one earned) in six innings to improve to 5-2.

“The bullpen as a whole to this point has been overused,” Carter said. “Now we got three solid, good performances from our starting pitching. If we can get that on a consistent basis, then we can rest our bullpen.”

Carter said the Ducks are in position

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to complete a sweep that might have long-term implications. He reference the 1986 Mets four-game sweep over St. Louis on the road from April 11-14 that year. In 1985, the Cardinals beat out the 98-win Mets team for the division crown en route to winning the National League pennant. But the Mets made a statement early next season that propelled them to postseason success, which is what Carter said he is hoping to achieve in his first season as Ducks manager.

“I remember [Mets manager] Davey Johnson telling us if we went in and proved to them in the first series that we can beat them, we’ll win this thing,” Carter said. “Sure enough, that’s the way it went. We just need to put a thought in their head.

“That’s all I’m thinking about is playoffs. I’m not counting our chickens before they hatch because anything can happen but that’s how I think. And that’s who [Southern Maryland] we would play.”

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