BROOKLYN, NY – The winds of change were blowing throughout the New York-Penn League this week.
On the eve of the All-Star break, Lowell Spinners outfielder Andrew Benintendi was promoted to full-season Greenville. Jose Mesa Jr. of Staten Island changed his address to Charleston and Rick Porcello‘s rehab assignment migrated to Pawtucket.
The Brooklyn Cyclones underwent change with a victory in the opening game against Lowell, after dropping six prior and falling into the basement of the McNamara Division.
On Thursday, the Lowell Spinners sought to claim a share of first place in the Stedler division, while the Cyclones were looking to build momentum and sustain their end under the spotlight of a televised game. For the first twenty-four outs of the game, the Cyclones appeared left for dead, but two separate two-run rallies in their last at-bat secured a 4-3, eleven-inning victory to forge closer towards respectability and salvage their playoff hopes.
Typically, when two pitchers combine for an ERA north of five, the result is an offensive explosion, but as we learned from listening to New York Yankees broadcaster John Sterling and a renown Twitter account that, “you can’t predict baseball”. On this evening, runs and hits proved hard to come by for the Spinners and Cyclones through the first four innings.
Though both clubs recorded their first hit in the third inning, the initial tally came from the boys from Lowell, who dented the plate in the fifth on a one-out double by designated hitter Kyri Washington, who proceeded to score on a run-scoring single by ninth-place hitter Jhon Nunez, his second of the game to that point. Javier Rodriguez, a 20-year-old lefty out of Mexico, made it stand up with four scoreless innings, aided by some stellar defense.
In the bottom of the fifth with Brooklyn threatening to even the ledger, centerfielder Luis Alexander Basabe gunned down Enmanuel Zabala trying to score with a perfect throw to home plate. Rodriguez exited after 4 1/3 innings, striking out four to lower his ERA by a full run.
Kevin Canelon was equally impressive for Brooklyn. Absent of any run support, Canelon made every pitch count, allowing just three hits and the single run in the first seven innings. The Spinners doubled their lead in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Tate Matheny, the son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, creating more havoc for a Brooklyn team featuring a right-handed heavy lineup with only Vinny Siena hitting above .229 entering play.
The Cyclones offense continued to be stymied and hope for a victory diminished by the batter on a night when a stellar pitching performance became clouded by the struggles of the home nine. Fortune reversed itself in Brooklyn’s final at bat when David Thompson and Brandon Brosher scored on successive RBI groundouts to tie the score and send the game to extra innings.
The Spinners broke through in the eleventh inning on a run scoring single by Tyler Spoon, a 35th round draft pick out of Arkansas, making his pro debut. The reprieve from the draw proved fleeting when Brooklyn led off their half of the frame with three consecutive hits, with the last by Zach Mathieu on an extra base hit to knot the game for his second run batted in on the evening. Brooklyn sealed their fate a few batters later when a pitch hit Pedro Perez with the bases loaded to secure their second consecutive victory.
After consecutive cancellations between the Aberdeen Ironbirds and the Staten Island Yankees, the Brooklyn Cyclones find themselves just two games out of first place, mired in essentially a four team, eighteen games playoff to claim a postseason spot.
The often trite adage of baseball being the lone sport without a clock exemplifies the current plight of the Cyclones. A combination of frustration, failure, and triumph have placed in the club in a position where parity dominates and each game has the potential to decide the season and prepare players for the races which lead to October at the major league level. Resiliency, a trait inherent to the Brooklyn Cyclones has made an appearance at the most opportune time.
The Lowell Spinners, once on the cusp of leading the Stedler Division are now three and a half games off the pace after being swept in Brooklyn. To make matters worse, they currently sit one game and a half behind the State College Spikes for the lone wild card spot in the New York-Penn League playoffs. Without the services of recently promoted Andrew Benintendi, the Spinners will be forced to adjust and hope to be able to overcome the adversity of losing their best player to Greenville.
As the clock ticks closer to the breezes of autumn, the drama lingers in the game of summer.