Last chance: Cyclones’ playoff hopes hinge on season finale

September 5, 2012 By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Cyclones shortstop Phillip Evans
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There was no joy in “Cyclonville” Tuesday night as the 6,191 Brooklyn faithful who showed up to watch a playoff celebration instead went home wondering if the Baby Bums would need a respirator to revive their suddenly tenuous postseason hopes.

Cyclones shortstop Phillip Evans, for one, isn’t panicking.

“We just have to remain calm, stay focused and come out and win [Wednesday] night,” said the Carlsbad, Calif, native, five days shy of his 21st birthday and one win away from securing his second straight postseason ride with the Mets’ Class A short-season franchise by the sea.

Evans had two of Brooklyn’s six hits in a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of upset-minded Lowell in Tuesday’s penultimate regular-season contest, leaving the Cyclones with a half-game lead entering Wednesday’s potential must-win against the Spinnners.

If the Baby Bums beat Lowell, they’ll be in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, and second straight campaign under the guidance of manager Rich Donnelly. Even with a loss, however, the Cyclones can reach the postseason if hard-charging Batavia loses one game of its scheduled Wednesday doubleheader with Jamestown.

Things got ugly early and turned downright hideous late in Tuesday’s game as Lowell put up two quick runs in the opening frame off Brooklyn starter Gabriel Ynoa (5-2), who suffered just his second loss in 13 starts this summer and first since July 13.

The Cyclones shaved the deficit to one in the bottom of the fifth inning as Evans delivered a clutch, two-out RBI single, plating infield mate Juan Gamboa. But Brooklyn third baseman Dimas Ponce was gunned down at the plate on the play, foiling an opportunity to tie the game.

With the Muckdogs’ game against Jamestown rained out, the Cyclones knew they had four more innings to catch the Spinners and enjoy a celebratory pile up on the MCU Park grass. But Lowell battered the Brooklyn bullpen for seven runs over its final four at-bats, pulling away for good and leaving Cyclones fans to hope for a clinching win Wednesday and a home playoff opener Friday night against McNamara Division champion Hudson Valley.

Batavia (44-30), which had won nine in a row before falling Monday night to give Brooklyn (45-29) the edge it needed to secure the wild card, was scheduled to kick off its double-dip in Jamestown at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Both games are scheduled to go only seven innings, meaning the Cyclones could have some idea of where the Muckdogs stand when they hit the field in Coney Island at 6 p.m. against the Spinners.

There was one bright spot for Brooklyn Tuesday night, albeit compliments of the visiting team. Former Poly Prep star Kevin Heller, enjoying his first full week with Lowell after being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the June draft, went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored during the Spinners’ rout of the Cyclones after going 0-for-3 in his hometown pro debut Monday.

Heller, drNeeding a win or a Batavia loss to secure the wild card on the season's final day, the Cyclones were sending All-Star right-hander Luis Mateo to the hill for Wednesday's game against Lowell. Brooklyn Cyclones photoafted in the 40th round, finished his career at Amherst College as the school’s all-time leader in hits (172), runs (136), RBIs (126) and total bases (275). He tied for the school record with 18 career homers and went a dazzling 41-for-45 in steal attempts. Thus far as a pro, Heller is batting .276 with three RBIs and 12 runs scored in 18 contests, but has posted a nice .300 average in his first six contests at the Class A short-season level with Lowell.

With the weight of the world suddenly on their shoulders, the Cyclones will send All-Star right-hander Luis Mateo (4-5) to the hill Wednesday in an attempt to slow down Heller and the Spinners. Originally, we reported that staff ace Hansel Robles may get the call for Wednesday’s finale, but Donnelly could be holding him back for a potential Game 1 playoff start, if the Cyclones get past Lowell, or Batavia loses at least one of its two games.

Irregardless of the outcome in Game 76, the Cyclones have again provided Brooklyn fans with a competitive team that has produced several notable prospects, including center fielder Brandon Nimmo. The Mets’ first-round pick in 2011 took a while to come into his own this summer, but has blossomed into a solid all-around ballplayer who figures to be at Class A long-season or Class A Advanced ball come next April.

Mateo, one of four All-Star pitchers on the Brooklyn staff, has an opportunity to send everyone home happy Wednesday night, and looking forward to Friday’s playoff opener.

This, That and the Other Thing: Having led the New York-Penn League in attendance for the 12th consecutive year, the Cyclones will host Fan Appreciation Night at MCU Park on Wednesday  All fans will be invited to run the bases following the contest. … Despite a .248 average, Nimmo leads Brooklyn in hits (66), runs (41), RBIs (40), walks (46) and total bases (108). … 1B Cole Frenzel, who left Brooklyn in July with a team-best .342 batting average, is hitting just .204 at Class A Savannah since his promotion. 

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