The Long Island Ducks got a 2-run home run from Adam Bailey and six strong innings pitched by Massapequa native Rob Whitenack to defeat the Sugar Land Skeeters 3-1 in the first game of a day/night double header at Bethpage Ballpark.
Before the game, most of the attention was centered on former NBA star Tracy McGrady who started on the mound for the Skeeters, but McGrady only pitched one inning by design. He faced the minimum three batters, walking one but getting outfielder Lew Ford to hit into a double play to end the inning.
McGrady had some control issues. He threw 15 pitches and only five of them were for strikes. Still, for McGrady, this is a small step in the process of exploring what he can do as a professional pitcher.
“I felt pretty good, really confident,” said McGrady on how it felt to be on the mound. “It is already hard to pitch when you haven’t done it in a few years. It has probably been over a month since my last outing -it is difficult and challenging but I believe in my ability and the thing is right now to go out and execute.”
Whitenack, meanwhile, went six innings and allowed just one unearned run on four hits to earn his first victory of the season for the Ducks.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead early in the count and good things will happen,” Whitenack said.
The Long Island native, who is coming back from serious injuries, was very strong for five innings and then battled his way through the sixth.
“I kind of hit a little bit of a wall there, trying to find the [strike] zone. But I took a deep breath and kind of got back into the groove of things and got the last two guys to pop up.”
The comeback from Tommy John surgery is “mostly mental” at this point for Whitenack. “It’s trusting that you can throw your pitches and it’s not going to snap again. Or you feel a little ache or pain in there and everything’s OK. That’s the biggest thing.”
Whitenack had a group of nearly 50 friends and family members at the game to cheer him on.
The Ducks went ahead 2-0 in the second inning. Designated hitter Randy Ruiz singled to lead off the inning and left fielder Adam Bailey followed that up with a two-run home run to right-center off of losing pitcher Daniel Meadows.
“I was told a long time ago not to take a fastball from a lefty,” Bailey said. “The first one was a ball and I got to see it and I guess I pretty much got lucky.” It was Bailey’s 8th home run of the season which is second on the Ducks.
Long Island added a run in the fourth inning off reliever Sean Gallagher. Joash Brodin led off the inning with a single and stole second. Catcher Keith Castillo singled him home to make it 3-1 Ducks.
Sugar Land’s only run was unearned and it came in the sixth inning off an error by shortstop Dan Lyons. It was then that Whitenack got out of a jam by getting Delwyn Young and Brian Barton to both pop up to shortstop to end the threat.
The Ducks bullpen then pitched three scoreless innings to clinch the victory. Eric Niesen struck out the side while allowing only one hit in the seventh, Brett Lorin allowed only one base runner on a walk in the eighth before Jon Meloan earned his seventh save of the season by shutting down the Skeeters in the ninth.
The win increased the Ducks record to 31-23.
The second game of the day/night doubleheader will start at 7 pm tonight. Jared Lansford is scheduled to start for the Ducks against David Pauley of Sugar Land.
Attendance was 4, 617.
Leadoff hitter Fehlandt Lentini singled in the seventh inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games.
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1495 Sports is proud to bring the following postgame videos:
Rob Whitenack and Adam Bailey:
Fans should stay tuned as we will have a separate recap from Game Two between the Ducks and Skeeters.