BROOKLYN, NY – Less than 24 hours after dropping an excruciating twelve-inning thriller to the Staten Island Yankees at MCU Park and a spot in the penthouse of the McNamara Division, Brooklyn Cyclones were back at it on Wednesday opening a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals short-season affiliate, the State College Spikes. Battered, beaten, and exhausted, the Cyclones found themselves in an eight-team scramble for the New York-Penn League wild card and in danger of falling below .500 for the second time this season, after losing 20 of their last 31 games. The State College Spikes were equally desperate for a win, leading by one half game over the Lowell Spinners in the wild card chase, while looking to add to their current league high four game winning streak. The Spikes completed the mission on a fourteen hit barrage, resulting in a 7-6 victory and another step closer towards separating themselves in the Wild Card race.
New York-Penn League All-Star Tyler Badamo made the start to open the pivotal series and was greeted rudely out of the gate with a leadoff triple by Jhohan Acevedo. A sacrifice fly followed and the Cyclones were behind the eight ball before coming to bat. Badamo, a 24th rounder by the New York Mets in 2014 left his previous outing after less than three innings due to a groin injury. The Cyclones would rebound against State College starter Landon Beck, who had been searching for his control.
The first four Brooklyn hitters reached base, taking swift advantage on a two run single to left field by Enmanuel Zabala, shaking off the cobwebs early from the Staten Island affair. Badamo failed to hold the margin almost immediately when Orlando Olivera sent a fastball over the left field wall to even the ledger. Similar to the preceding evening, the lead changed hands multiple times. Beck’s second wild pitch in 44 innings of work allowed Brooklyn to regain the lead and then add one more courtesy of a Jose Garcia infield single in the third inning. Badamo settled down after allowing another run, striking out four in as many innings. “In fairness to Badamo, he strained a groin and his control suffered because of that”, Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said.
As Badamo settled into a groove, Beck began to find himself, striking out seven after five innings. The repreive would be short lived for Badamo who surrendered two on a go-ahead double by third baseman Ronnierd Garcia in a three run sixth inning for the Spikes. Badamo nursing the previous referenced groin injury gave up seven hits and six runs in just over five innings of work, unable to establish any sustained consistency. “When pitches get tired, they elevate their pitches”, Gamboa explained. “The plan was for Badamo to go five innings, but we did not see he was out of gas”. Beck, his opposite number, gave his team an opportunity to win despite not having his best start after five innings and four runs across. Garcia would add another insurance two-bagger for State College for his third run batted in and dropping Brooklyn under the .500 mark. “I have to give Garcia credit”, Gamboa said. “You see their (State College) average is .257 and we are giving up 30 points on their average and god knows how many runs they score”.
For just the second time this season, the Brooklyn Cyclones find themselves below the .500 mark, clinging to the fringes of playoff contention. As the offense begins to show signs of life, the pitching is beginning to display some cracks in its armor, after surrendering fourteen runs in their last two games and being forced to compensate for offensive shortcomings. The struggles come at an inopportune time against a State College Spikes team, which ranks third in the New-York Penn League in hitting with four hitters amassing at least two hits in the victory. The five game winning streak for the State College Spikes catapults them to the summit of the New York-Penn League wild card, where eight teams are separated by three and a half games and 11 teams are four games off the pace. Ignoring the equations and arithmetic, which can make a mathematician cringe, the margin for error is miniscule. The New York-Penn League is experiencing an unprecedented amount of parity, allowing recent draft picks to get a prelude of a pennant race. With possible reinforcements arriving in a few weeks from rookie ball and promotions on the horizon, perhaps the true separation may be attained. Until then, postseason baseball arrives one month early, will all hands on deck for each of the 14 franchises in the New York-Penn League.