CENTRAL ISLIP, NY- Timely hits marked a potent offense as the Ducks surged to the Liberty Division’s top spot to start the second half.
But starting pitcher Randy Leek was the victim of the Ducks first offensive cold spell since the season’s midway point. Leek limited Bridgeport to just one earned run in striking out a season-high eight batters in eight innings.
The effort was not good enough as a Bluefish starter pitcher once again dominated. One night after Dan Reichert pitched a complete game shutout, Matt Pike struck out eight in logging a season-high seven innings to hand the Ducks a 4-3 loss in front of 6,305 fans at Citibank Park.
Ray Navarrete lifted a first-inning solo home run to left and Johnny Hernandez tagged Pike for a two-run triple in the second before the Bluefish continued to toss up zeros on the scoreboard. The Ducks will not face Bridgeport ace Esteban Yan this weekend, though the club has been shutout in 16 out of 18 innings this series and will look to avoid a three-game sweep to its division rivals.
Pitching coach Dave LaPoint filled in for manager and Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who is in Cooperstown for Sunday’s induction ceremonies. LaPoint left the clubhouse before reporters could interview him.
Preston Wilson struggled with stepdad and former Met outfielder Mookie Wilson in attendance, striking out four times from the cleanup spot. The Ducks entered the series winners of eight of its previous nine before losing two games in a row for the first time since July 14.
Former major leaguer Hector Carrasco saved Pike’s victory by surviving a tension-packed ninth. The righty induced two fly outs before walking Juan Francia and Hernandez to put the tying and winning runs on base. Navarrete worked the count to 3-1 before taking two strikes to end the game on an anticlimactic note as Carrasco picked up his first save for Bridgeport.
Leek dropped to 6-7 while Pike improved to 5-5.
Bridgeport used speed to open the scoring. Leadoff hitter Adam Greenberg placed a flawless bunt to second for an infield single before advancing on a sacrifice bunt. Luis Lopez’s RBI double drove in Greenberg to give Bridgeport the lead.
Navarrete tied the game in the bottom of the inning, smashing his team-leading 15th home run off the Stalco advertisement to the left of the scoreboard.
A two-out second-inning rally gave the Ducks its only lead. Eighth-hitting Rob Sandora’s single started the rally after two fly outs. Juan Francia walked and scored when Hernandez ripped Pike’s offering just beyond Greenberg’s diving attempt in right-centerfield.
Poor defense contributed to Bridgeport’s eventual game-winning outburst. Leek walked Brandon Sing to lead off the fourth before striking out Jesse Hoorelbeke. Sing took off for second on the strikeout pitch but stopped midway between first and second.
Francia, playing shortstop, took the throw at second but hit Sing with the baseball on the throw back to first to thwart what should have been a double play. Instead, the Bluefish lined back-to-back singles to load the bases before a sacrifice fly and Shea Harris’ two-run single to right handed Bridgeport a 4-3 lead.
Francia’s throw was charged an error two innings limited Leek’s line to just one earned run after the Levittown native settled down and retired 11 straight batters before Ducks reliever Joe Valentine struck out the side in order in the ninth.
Leek’s line was aided by a throwing error that made all three of Bridgeport’s fourth inning runs unearned. The Levittown native still pitched the furthest into a game this season, keeping the bullpen well rested, striking out six of the last 11 batters he faced.