CENTRAL ISLIP, NY— Most clubs can define its seasons on a critical stretch that secures a playoff spot or dashes postseason aspirations.
The first two weeks of August nearly derailed the Ducks quest for a sixth straight Atlantic League playoff berth. But the subsequent fortnight is helping the Flock gain an edge of Bridgeport in the wild card race, continuing with a 12-3 victory Sunday over York.
George Lombard’s torrid hitting continued with a two-run home run to support Troy Cate’s strong effort. The Ducks opened the scoring on a second-inning RBI groundout and extended the edge to 3-0 an inning later when Lombard followed Ray Navarette’s walk by taking Dan Foli’s pitch deep to left.
Lombard’s blast marked his seventh homer in just 28 games. Cate made those runs stand up, limiting the Revolution to just two runs on six hits in six innings as the Ducks capped a seven-game home stand with five victories over York and Bridgeport.
Including the final two July games, the Ducks lost eight in a row and 12 of 13 this month to drop to 13-19 as of Aug. 14. The Ducks responded by winning six in a row and have now won eight of the past 10 to make it back to .500. Thanks to a strong first-half record, the Ducks surged 5 ½ games ahead of Bridgeport in the overall wild card standings with 38 games remaining.
“Right now, we’re all playing the game
the right way and everyone is swinging the bat well,” Lombard said.
The Ducks scored in every inning except the first and eighth. A four-run sixth turned the contest into a blowout and improved Cate to 9-4.
Lombard’s play continued to help the Ducks achieve a previously elusive consistency level. The former Atlanta Brave went 1-4 Sunday and is batting .373. A mid-July free agent pickup, Lombard carried a .621 slugging percentage and .469 on-base percentage into the game to emerge as a capable replacement for Preston Wilson, who is on the inactive list with a season-ending shoulder injury.
“I get my work in and just go up there and try to have a quality at-bat every time,” Lombard said. “I’ve never been a numbers guy. The first year I was drafted, I hit a buck-40, so I’ve never been caught up in stats.
“Stats don’t mean a thing until the season is over when you can look back and reflect on your year.”
As a 18-year-old second-round pick, Lombard batted .140 in 40 games for Atlanta’s Single-A Gulf Cost Braves rookie league in 1994. But the 6-0 left-handed bat developed quickly and said he is working closely with coach Kevin Baez and manager Gary Carter. Lombard said he is looking to make it back to the big leagues for the first time since he played for the Nationals in 2006.
Lombard, a six-year major league veteran, is slugging at a .636 clip. His numbers at Citibank Park are even more impressive. The former Rays, Tigers and Nationals corner outfielder started the afternoon with a staggering 1.000 slugging percentage and .646 on-base percentage at home. Six of his seven home runs have come at Citibank Park in just 13 home games
“It’s a good place to hit,” Lombard said. “The lighting is good at home plate and it’s your home field, so you can come out and do your early work. I feel more comfortable here.”
Navarrete finished 3-4 with two runs scored while Brooklyn native Johnny Hernandez provided plenty of insurance runs, logging three hits and three runs in five at-bats along with two RBIs as the Ducks pounded out 19 hits.
Lew Ford started the evening as the league’s leading hitter. The ex-Minnesota Twin went 1-4. Hernandez opened the scoring by lacing a leadoff single to start the second and scoring on Matt Cavagnaro’s RBI groundout.
Following Lombard’s long ball, the Ducks scored twice in the fourth and fifth innings before Hernandez added a two-run single through the right side in the sixth. Cavagnaro, who racked up three RBIs, drove in another run on a groundout while Rob Sandora also added a RBI single.
Three Ducks reliever pitched one inning reach to close the win and send the Ducks on a seven-game road trip through Camden and Newark with momentum.