BROOKLYN, NY – Through the first twenty five games of the New York-Penn League season, the Brooklyn Cyclones have evolved into the mirror image of the New York Mets. Dominating pitching led by Tyler Badamo and Matt Blackham have kept the Cyclones competitive, despite an offense which has scored four runs or less in the last seven games.
After a comfortable 14-5 start, the Cyclones have lost six of their last eight games entering play on Sunday, enabling a suddenly hot Staten Island Yankees club to claim a share of the division lead. With just two home games remaining before a seven game road trip, Brooklyn looked to reverse the trend against the Oakland A’s short season affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters and came up swimmingly in a 7-1 drubbing at MCU Park in Coney Island.
It’s been said incessantly over the course of a six month season how runs can come at a premium, and for the Brooklyn Cyclones, nothing held greater importance than scoring first and in the bottom of the first inning, their long awaited prayers were answered when centerfielder Tucker Tharp scored on a misplayed line drive at third base off the bat of David Thompson. The play would be scored an error on Vermont third baseman Mikey White, in shades of Freddie Lindstrom and the Cyclones struck first on his day. Brooklyn added another tally an inning later on a run scoring single by Vinny Siena to double the lead.
“My at bats before today were not very good. I was doing all the wrong things at the plate,” Siena said. “I took advantage of my last at bat yesterday and it set the tone today.”
Further scoring appeared to be curtailed when Vermont shortstop Richie Martin successfully executed the hidden ball trick on Tharp, but the two Brooklyn runs in the first two innings seemed to be enough to suffice with the way Gaby Almonte had been pitching for much of the afternoon.
“He continues to be absolutely fantastic,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “I think the heat and the exertion in his pitches made the difference. An absolute masterpiece.”
On the hidden ball trick, Gamboa added, “That is the responsibility of the runner and the third base coach to know exactly where the ball is. That took two runs away from us at that point in the game. We shot ourselves in the foot there. There is no place for the runner to be other than the base.”
Almonte, a free agent signing by the New York Mets, kept the Vermont offense at bay, shutting out the Lake Monsters for innings and continuing his dominance against leadoff batters, surrendering just a single hit against them in this outing.
The sparse lead would grow to three by the fifth inning when recent addition Hengelbert Rojas, formerly of the rookie league Kingsport Mets drove home another run on a single, plating the recently slumping Michael Bernal, who had reached base on the third error of the day by Vermont. The Cyclones appeared to be pushing the right buttons and creating distance. By the end of the fifth inning, the Lake Monsters had four defensive miscues on the ledger.
With just one run earned and the parade of hurlers coming out of the bullpen, the Lake Monsters attempted to keep the game within reach but the absence of any discernible offense kept Billy Beane‘s short season club scoreless for six inning and experienced a role reversal in Brooklyn where “Selfie Sunday” at MCU Park became “Freaky Friday” for the men on the field. Vermont began to solve Almonte by the seventh where a combination of a Mikey White double and a Nick Collins single plated the only one Almonte allowed in six and one-third innings of work.
The Cyclones mustered two more runs on a Rojas single in the seventh, giving him three runs batted in on the afternoon and put the game out of reach. Brooklyn added two insurance runs off the bat of Michael Bernal, who broke his slump on Sunday with three hits, including a two run double in the eighth inning, to cap off the festivities.
Entering play on Sunday, the Brooklyn Cyclones had been one of the worst offensive teams statistically in professional baseball. Their .220 collective team batting average was good for the fourth lowest mark in all levels of the game, just ahead of the Gulf Coast Astros, Rays, and Arizona League Giants. To make matters worse, eight of the 15 position players who had at least one at bat as a Brooklyn Cyclone had an average around the “Mendoza Line” among qualifying hitters on the New York-Penn League, two of which ranked at the bottom of the list.
“Our hitters looked so bad,” Gamboa said. “I only turned in three of the 27 pitchers we faced as true prospects. That means that the majority of the pitchers we faced are guys who will top at Double-A and we’re making them look like world beaters.”
The nature of a season in professional baseball is a cyclical one, filled with a myriad of emotions and manic highs and lows. The ability to adequately make adjustments on the field and replicate acquired mechanics will ultimately determine eventual success. For the Brooklyn Cyclones, the execution of their corrections and the momentum of the schedule will ultimately determine their final standing in a division which may come down to the season’s last day.