Cyclones head home after humbling series
Brooklyn looks to shake off heartbreaking losses in Hudson Valley
Perhaps a shift in scenery, news of their multitude of All-Star selections and even a uniform change can help the Brooklyn Cyclones shake off their worst series performance of the summer.
When they returned to MCU Park on Coney Island Wednesday evening, the reeling Baby Bums were doubtlessly still haunted by not one, not two, but three consecutive heartbreaking walk-off losses during their humbling series at McNamara Division-leading Hudson Valley.
After suffering the indignity of normally reliable reliever Yeudy Colon issuing a walk-off balk against the Renegades in Sunday evening’s series opener, things only got worse for the Cyclones.
On Tuesday, Ryley Gilliam, who had not issued a single run in his first eight appearances out of the bullpen for Brooklyn, absorbed a blown save and a loss when he surrendered a game-ending two-run homer to Hudson Valley’s Ford Proctor.
Those two damaging defeats were simply a prelude to Wednesday night’s soul-crushing 5-4 loss in front of 3,700 fans at Dutchess Stadium, heretofore known as the Cyclones’ house of horrors.
After knotting the contest in the top of the ninth inning on newly named New York-Penn League All-Star Walter LaGrange’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Sharp, the Baby Bums once again suffered the pain of watching the Renegades celebrate at home plate in the bottom half of the frame.
Ronald Sanchez (0-2) was given the responsibility of holding the Renegades down in the ninth, but he gave up a one-out single to Anthony Rondon, uncorked a wild pitch that sent the winning run to second base and yielded a base hit up the middle to Bryce Brown that forced Brooklyn to trudge off the field in defeat yet again.
The three-game sweep, just the second Brooklyn has suffered during this bounce-back campaign, dropped the Cyclones 5 1/2 games back of first-place Hudson Valley after they entered the series hoping to overtake the Renegades.
The Baby Bums remained 2 1/2 lengths behind Auburn in the hunt for the NY-Penn’s lone wild card spot as Brooklyn continues the fervent pursuit of its first playoff bid since the summer of 2012.
The series-ending loss came just after the Cyclones learned that six of their players — Colon, LaGrange, Ross Adolph, Carlos Cortes, Billy Oxford and staff ace Jaison Vilera — were selected to compete in the league’s annual late-summer classic at Lubrano Park in University Park, Pennsylvania on Aug. 14.
Vilera is a prime candidate for NY-Penn Pitcher of the Year honors with a 5-1 record and 1.43 ERA over nine starts, a stretch that includes a league-best 29 1/3 scoreless inning streak that was snapped in Monday’s night loss in Hudson Valley.
Colon and Oxford have combined to provide second-year manager Edgardo Alfonzo with two reliable options at the back end of the bullpen, and LaGrange (.291 batting average, 17 RBIs), Cortes (.275) and Adolph (21 RBIs) will represent Brooklyn as position players.
“I think those guys really deserve to be there,” Alfonzo said of his half-dozen All-Stars.
“When you have six guys, it means the team is pretty good, too. It’s a great honor and opportunity for those guys to represent Brooklyn and the Mets organization.”
Before they pack for Pennsylvania, however, the Cyclones have to get back on the winning track, something they will try to do here at home against the Connecticut Tigers over the next three days.
The team will don its “Jefes” uniforms for the series, trying to regain some of the “Boss” mentality that helped the Cyclones jump back into serious postseason contention this year after going a franchise-worst 24-52 last summer.
Having Vilera on the hill for Friday’s series finale should help despite the fact that the 21-year-old Venezuelan right-hander finally looked human against the Renegades earlier this week, surrendering a season-high four runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Prior to that outing, Vilera had held opponents off the board in four consecutive starts and had yielded two runs or fewer in each of his previous eight appearances.
“Every time Jaison goes to the mound, he’s got the mentality that he can do it,” Alfonzo said.
“To me, he looks like an A-ball or Double-A guy, and he’s been performing that way all season long. Even when he doesn’t feel good, he’s able to pitch well and get out of tough situations.”
As for the rest of his All-Stars, Alfonzo boasted about their ability to excel at the Class A short-season level despite being just a few months removed from the amateur ranks.
“It’s not easy coming from college, where there’s a lot of good players,” Alfonzo noted. “And then to continue your season once you make the pros and be going to an All-Star Game, it’s very impressive what they’ve done.”
It will be even more so if this collection of Cyclones finds a way to return playoff baseball to our fair borough for the first time in six years.
This, That and the Other Thing: Cortes, who was the Mets’ third-round pick out of South Carolina in June’s MLB Draft, has 13 RBIs in his first 27 games for Brooklyn. The 21-year-old infielder from Orlando, Florida rounds out a strong top-of-the order for the Cyclones, who bat Adolph at the top of the lineup, followed by LaGrange and Cortes. The trio has helped Brooklyn to a .258 team batting average this summer, ranking third in the league. Last year, the Cyclones batted a combined .232 over the 76-game grind of a NY-Penn League schedule, leaving them fourth from last on the 14-team circuit.