BROOKLYN, NY – Residing side-by-side in the New York-Penn League’s McNamara Division, the Hudson Valley Renegades and the Brooklyn Cyclones have fiercely battled each other in an endless pursuit of excellence. During the past half decade, the Renegades and Cyclones have found themselves near the top of the division, with Brooklyn finishing above .500 in each year of existence. Their similarities are also parallel in player development where the budgetary limitations of their parent clubs (the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Mets) breed a slew of homegrown products. From Alex Cobb to Lucas Duda, their big league rosters are littered with individuals whose pro careers originated as participants in the rivalry. On Thursday night, the two familiar adversaries met for the first time in Brooklyn this season, separated by just two games in the standings, before the Cyclones defeated the Renegades for the second time in as many nights by a 2-1 score.
After being shut out 7-0 at the hands of Brooklyn starter Tyler Badamo at Dutchess Stadium on Wednesday, the Renegades hoped to respond quickly on Thursday, as they looked to halt a two game losing skid. An extra base hit by designated hitter Manuel Sanchez would fail to produce any runs for Hudson Valley in the top of the 2nd inning, after Brooklyn starter Gaby Almonte fanned first baseman Nic Wilson for his third strikeout in the first two innings. Almonte continued to strand runners in scoring position, utilizing an array of offspeed pitches and a fastball leading to 7 strikeouts in his 6 innings of work. The Renegades would strike first in this rapid moving affair after centerfielder Angel Moreno scored the game’s first tally on a 6-6-3 double play in the top half of the 5th inning.
The slim margin appeared to be enough to suffice for Hudson Valley starter Yonny Chirinos, who managed to keep Brooklyn off balance for much of the evening, tossing five scoreless innings and surrendering just three hits. Six innings of offensive futility akin to the recent woes of their parent club, kept Brooklyn off the scoreboard until a two run double by Alfredo Reyes gave Brooklyn a 2-1 lead in the 7th against reliever Michael Velasquez. The Cyclones lost a chance to score a third run when Enmanuel Zabala managed to pass Jeff Diehl on the bases during the play. Storm clouds would follow in the ensuing frame, causing rain to fall and a rain delay of 27 minutes. The club had received word earlier in the game that pitcher Gaither Bumgardner had been traded to the Los Angeles Angels for international slot, leaving the bullpen shorthanded. The compressed roster had little effect on the relief corps, as Christian Montgomery and Alex Palsha proceeded to strike out seven batters in three between them, keeping Hudson Valley scoreless and securing the victory. “We have confidence in all of them”, Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa said. “They have all done a great job with an airtight bullpen and the lead stood up”.
With a 9-4 mark, the Brooklyn Cyclones are setting the pace in the McNamara Division. Unlike many teams in the New York-Penn League, the Cyclones returned this season with a roster of nine returning players from 2014 and the remainder coming from the Mets rookie league affiliate in Kingsport. The confidence and trust have led to close victories and considerable success, which many around the club attribute to strong team chemistry and unity from working together last season and through extended spring training in Florida. “The bulk of the team played together in extended spring and were able to prepare them for what Brooklyn is all about”, Gamboa said. “It is a good group and our job as coaches is to mold them and make them better than they were when they leave here and at the same time to get them to win in the process.”
After a brief call up to Double-A Binghamton for Michael Gibbons in a spot start in Erie, Pennsylvania on Friday, the Cyclones will turn to reliever Nicco Blank to take the ball in Hudson Valley for the finale of the series. The Hudson Valley Renegades at 6-7, drop their third consecutive game and seven of their last ten, failing to keep pace with the victorious Staten Island Yankees, who currently sit just a game and half behind the Cyclones after their triumph in Aberdeen. The Renegades will turn to Cameron Varga, a second round pick of the Rays in the 2014 draft to oppose Blank at Dutchess Stadium.
The Brooklyn Cyclones and the Hudson Valley Renegades have endured fierce battles with each passing season. The early season victories and defeats ultimately set the tone for the remainder of the campaign and prepare the members of each club for the intensity of a pennant race. With a slew of roster moves, hot streaks, slumps, and the dog days of summer ahead, the battle is only beginning for the teams residing in the McNamara Division, where four teams intensely compete for two playoff spots and the frantic pace of the schedule decides the eventual outcome.