SYRACUSE | Zach Duke became part of the Washington Nationals only six days before the season started.
Now the veteran lefty leads the International League in wins.
Over eight innings Duke allowed seven hits, a pair of runs and walks, while he struck out two to improve to 9-3 on the season thanks to a 5-2 Syracuse Chiefs win over the Gwinnett Braves on Sunday at Alliance Bank Stadium.
The Chiefs have won seven in a row and moved to within 4.5 of a Wild Card playoff spot and 5.5 of North Division lead.
“A lot of fun. A lot of fun,” Duke repeated. “Even though we are in Triple-A, we want to win. We don’t come out here just to play. Being able to push for a playoff run makes it that much more fun.”
Since an 11-21 start, Syracuse is 28-16. The Chiefs swept first place Pawtucket and can sweep away the Braves tomorrow.
“It is a lot of fun. You show up everyday to the yard wanting and expecting to win. Winning cures a lot of problems. Everybody’s game goes up when there is a winning attitude in the clubhouse,” Brett Carroll, who extended a 13-game hit streak, said. “Everyone focuses a little bit more. We are going to try and make it last as long as we can.”
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Syracuse fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first, but a lead-off double by Corey Brown and a single by Erik Komatsu (see below) turned into a three-run first inning rally for the Chiefs.
“There is a different feeling. There is a confidence throughout the team,” Carroll, who hit a sac fly to score Brown in the first, said. “When you are clicking on all types of cylinders it makes it much more enjoyable to come to the yard.”
Carroll’s hit streak is one of four double-digit streaks at the plate for Syracuse. Brown and Carlos Rivero both extended 12-game streaks, while an idle Xavier Paul has a 10-game streak.
“I didn’t even know about it, honestly,” Caroll said about his streak. “(Hitting coach) Troy (Gingrich) and I are working on certain things in the cage and seeing the results of it is nice. I am just trying to stay within myself and put the bat on the ball the best that I can.”
Carroll is 17-for-his-last-51.
Henry Rodriguez came on and walked two and struck out one to get the save for Duke.
Audio Highlights: from @ChiefsRadio
Video Highlights: from MiLB.com
Record, Standings: 39-37, 5.5 GB
Nationals headline of the day: Beltway goes to Birds
Next Game: June 25 vs. Gwinnett, 7 p.m.
Line of the Day: Erik Komatsu, LF - 4-for-5, 3 R, HR, RBI
Komatsu was 4-for-4 going into his last at-bat of the night and he wanted a fifth knock.
He topped a ball and was thrown out.
“I was trying. I really was,” Komatsu said. “That is baseball.”
Before this season Komatsu didn’t have any Triple-A experience. He now has 21 games in Syracuse this season and is in the middle of a mid-season push by the Chiefs.
“I was fortunate to have some success tonight and I hope it continues,” Komatsu said. “Any time you can put together wins like this it gets better. Everything is better. We are playing well right now and everything is loose.”
Brown-watch: 2-for-5, 2B, R, 3 K
With a lead-off double, Brown continued a career-high 12 game hitting streak.
He was back in centerfield for the night and made a few catches, but nothing else of great note.
Nursing a little bit of a knee injury, Paul got the night off.
He is just short of entering the the International League batting race in second place at .317.
The requirement is 2.7 at bats per game. Paul has 2.69 ABs/Game right now.
Ben Meyers can be reached at (315) 282-2557, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @CitizenMeyers