It’s heartbreak bridge in Staten Island for Cyclones
Suffer Walk-off Loss to Wild Card-Leading Yankees in Series Opener
It was the type of unexpected, desperation ninth-inning rally that can spark a team toward a successful playoff drive.
Down to their last out at Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Wednesday night, the postseason-hopeful Cyclones got a clutch RBI single from Gene Cone to even the opener of their critical three-game series in Staten Island.
By scratching out the run and evening the hotly contested showdown at 3-3, Brooklyn sent a clear message to its rivals from across the Verrazano that this fight for the New York-Penn League’s final playoff berth would be to the finish.
But the Yankees, unfazed by the startling comeback, answered back immediately, pulling out a 4-3 victory in front of 2,512 fans at Staten Island’s home for Class A short-season baseball on the previously struggling Yancarlos Baez’s two-out, run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With the walk-off loss, Brooklyn dropped 3 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Yankees and four lengths back of first-place Hudson Valley in the chase for the top spot in the McNamara Division.
The disheartening two-game swing in the standings kicked off a grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days for the Baby Bums (30-27), who fell for the second time in three contests since reeling off a season-high five wins in a row prior to the All-Star break.
The Cyclones also fell to 3-3 in the season series with Staten Island this summer, leaving them four more games against the Baby Bombers to secure a potential tiebreaker in case the two clubs finished tied at season’s end.
This three-game set was scheduled to resume Thursday night in S.I., before Friday evening’s series finale.
The rivals will also square off Sept. 4 and 5 in the final two contests of the regular season.
If Brooklyn hopes to make those games meaningful, it will have to find a way to stay within striking distance of the Yanks come next month.
Wednesday night, however, was not a good start in that pursuit.
Despite being staked to an early 2-0 lead via Brandon Brosher’s RBI groundout in the second inning and All-Star shortstop Colby Woodmansee’s sacrifice fly in the third, the Cyclones literally gave a run back to the Bombers in the bottom half of the third.
Brooklyn starter Merandy Gonzalez began the frame by striking out Jerry Seitz and Baez, but the latter reached thanks to a passed ball that eluded the glove of Brosher behind the plate.
Dom Thompson-Williams made the Cyclones pay for the gaffe immediately thereafter, booming a double that sent Baez to third base.
Gonzalez, who yielded just one unearned run while striking out seven over five solid innings, then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Baez to cruise home as the Yanks cut the deficit in half.
Thompson-Williams greeted Brooklyn reliever Austin McGeorge with a leadoff single in the sixth, swiped second and went to third on Nick Solak’s base hit before coming home on George’s wild pitch as Staten Island evened the contest without the benefit of a run-scoring hit.
A throwing error by Tibieri opened the floodgates for another unearned run by the Yankees in the eighth as he was unable to field Thompson-Williams’ grounder and then watched helplessly as he scored later in the inning on Drew Bridges’ sacrifice fly to right field.
Down 3-2 and down to their last three outs, the Cyclones fought back valiantly as Darryl Knight, filling in for injured first baseman Peter Alonso, singled and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw.
He came rumbling home with the tying run, much to the dismay of Staten Islanders on their feet clapping for the final out, on Cone’s line-drive bullet into center field off S.I. closer David Sosebee (1-1), extending the contest for at least another half inning.
But Gabriel Feliz (1-1) was unable to get the Cyclones into extra innings despite retiring the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth.
He walked Angel Aguilar, then surrendered a double to Seitz to move the winning run to third before Baez, who had managed just one hit in his previous 34 at-bats this summer, delivered the game-winner on a line drive to right.
Despite Cone’s late-game heroics, Brooklyn can again blame its inability to hit in the clutch throughout the contest for this painful loss.
The Cyclones went a dismal 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, while Staten Island delivered two times in four tries in the same situations, making the most of their opportunities to score and taking full advantage of two crucial Brooklyn errors and Brosher’s untimely passed ball.
Mets’ first-round pick Justin Dunn (1-1, 0.50 ERA) was slated to start the middle of the series Thursday, hoping to get the Cyclones right back within 2 1/2 games of the Yanks in the wild-card hunt.
Dunn, fresh out of Boston College and a Long Island native, has not yielded an earned run in any of his four starts this summer, but has only gone three innings in each of those outings.
The Cyclones may need him to go a touch longer Thursday as the games continue to dwindle for a franchise that has not reached the playoffs since the summer of 2012.
This, That and the Other Thing: Woodmansee, playing for the first time since participating in Tuesday’s NY-Penn All-Star Game in Hudson Valley, finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but his sacrifice fly boosted his team-leading RBI total to 23 … The Bombers didn’t appear interested in dealing with the red-hot Desmond Lindsay, batting .344 with three homers and 11 RBIs in only 16 games with the Cyclones. The Mets’ second-round pick a year ago went 0-for-1 with a strikeout Wednesday night, but drew three walks from the wary Staten Island staff.
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