Brooklyn ace Gonzalez in a league of his own
All-Star right-hander tames Lake Monsters in latest pitching gem
All-Star hurler Harol Gonzalez is simply too good for Brooklyn, and the rest of the New York-Penn League for that matter.
The 21-year-old Dominican right-hander continued to dominate Class A short-season opponents with his latest gem Tuesday night on Coney Island, tossing seven innings of four-hit ball as the Cyclones cruised to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Vermont Lake Monsters in front of 4,831 fans at MCU Park.
Proving once again that he is ready to pitch at a higher level, Gonzalez (5-1) lowered his NY-Penn-best ERA to a minuscule 1.57 following his 10th start of the summer.
After spending 2014 with the Mets’ Dominican Summer League affiliate, and last year at Rookie-level Kingsport, where he went a pedestrian 2-4 with a 4.96 ERA in 13 appearances, the native of Santo Domingo has hit his stride on Surf Avenue.
He has held the opposition to one earned run or fewer in eight of his 10 outings, including each of the last six, almost single-handedly keeping Brooklyn in the hunt for the McNamara Division title, or an NY-Penn wild-card spot.
On Tuesday, Gonzalez set down the first 10 batters he faced before surrendering a one-out double to Vermont’s Eric Martinez in the fourth inning.
He proceeded to keep the Lake Monsters at bay before getting some defensive help in the seventh, when left fielder Jay Jabs nailed Tyler Ramirez at the plate for the final out of the frame following what appeared to be a sure RBI single for Nick Collins.
The clutch throw by Jabs and ensuing tag by catcher Ali Sanchez ended the latest sparkling pitching effort by Gonzalez, who extended his scoreless innings streak to 18 innings over his last three starts.
In his last six starts, Gonzalez, who entered the campaign as an afterthought in the Brooklyn rotation, has allowed only two earned runs while striking out 42 and walking five over 40 2/3 scintillating innings.
The NY-Penn leader in strikeouts with 74 was named to the league’s All-Star Game earlier this week, and is a strong candidate to start the game on Aug. 19 at Dutchess Stadium in Hudson Valley, N.Y.
“He keeps hitters off balance all game,” Cyclones pitching coach Billy Bryk Jr. told MiLB.com recently of his undisputed staff ace. “He’s one of those pitchers that reads the batter pitch for pitch.
“Harol calls his own game and he sees what the hitters are trying to throw at him,” Bryk Jr. added in the interview. “He knows what pitch he’s going to throw before the catcher does. He’s a master of pitching out there and I love watching him throw.”
So do the rest of the Cyclones, who continue to rank near the bottom of the circuit in team batting average (.214) and runs scored (188) through 51 games.
But having Gonzalez on the mound means the offense usually need only deliver a run or two to get Brooklyn in the win column.
“It takes a lot of pressure off the offense,” Brooklyn center fielder Desmond Lindsey admitted of Gonzalez’s mound prowess after going 2-for-3 with a solo homer and two runs scored in Tuesday night’s win.
Gonzalez’s dominance at this level is reminiscent of another Dominican righty who took the NY-Penn by storm four summers ago.
In 2012, current Mets reliever Hansel Robles went 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA in 12 starts for Brooklyn, including a complete-game one-hitter in the opening game of the playoffs that summer.
Robles, who is now one of Mets manager Terry Collins’ primary set-up men out of the bullpen, went on to be named NY-Penn Pitcher of the Year, an honor that almost certainly awaits Gonzalez if he continues on his torrid pace.
Bryk Jr. is confident that Gonzalez’s stuff will translate to higher levels, not because of his velocity or the nastiness of his pitches, but simply because he has just as much talent between the ears as he does in his right arm.
“I feel like he could have success at any level,” Bryk Jr. told MiLB. “He’s not a guy who’s going to blow you away. [His fastball] usually sits anywhere from 88-90 or 91 [mph], but he knows how to pitch. He’s got pitchability; he’s not just a thrower out there. He’s a student of the game, and he’s got a great feel and instincts for the game of baseball.”
This, That and the Other Thing: With Tuesday’s shutout victory, the Cyclones extended their winning streak to two games following a four-game slide, and remained within 4 1/2 games of first-place Hudson Valley in the race for the McNamara Division title and their first playoff berth in four summers. The Baby Bums entered Wednesday night’s home contest with Vermont 3 1/2 lengths behind arch rival Staten Island in the hunt for the league’s lone wild-card spot, but will visit the Baby Bombers at Richmond County Bank Ballpark next week for a critical three-game series … Gonzalez’s fellow All-Stars, 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee, each had a hit in Tuesday’s win, but Alonso was forced to leave the contest before the top of the ninth inning with an apparent thumb sprain. … Brooklyn ranks second in the league with six shutout wins this season.
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