Cyclones end slide with walk-off win
Dimino’s RBI single in 11th Halts Brooklyn’s Four-Game Losing Streak
A brutal 1-5 road trip, including two losses to the wild card-leading Staten Island Yankees, appeared to spell the end of the Brooklyn Cyclones’ pursuit of reaching the postseason for the first time in four summers on Coney Island.
But the Baby Bums refused to bow to their perilous predicament in the standings Tuesday night, pulling out a much-needed 2-1, 11-inning victory over the visiting Mahoning Valley Scrappers in front of 5,932 faithful fans at MCU Park.
“We’re coming off a horrible road trip, so it’s nice to get back on the winning track,” said Brooklyn manager Tom Gamboa after newly arrived first baseman Anthony Dimino sent everyone home happy by delivering a walk-off RBI single.
“We were going to be out of bullets,” Gamboa confessed of his short-handed bullpen, which had already crafted five scoreless innings from four hurlers after starter Raul Jacobsen tossed six brilliant frames.
Jacobsen, slated to throw approximately 75 to 80 pitches in just his second start of the summer, was economical and effective throughout the evening, yielding an unearned run on two hits while striking out eight without issuing a walk.
“Raul Jacobsen did a terrific job,” a relieved Gamboa noted during his post-game press conference in the manager’s office.
“He went six innings, we were hoping for five. He gave us six on 75 pitches because our bullpen has really been short. Everyone that followed him was really terrific.”
Ty Williams, Adam Atkins and Joseph Zanghi each pitched a scoreless frame before Taylor Henry (2-1) gave up a hit and struck out two over the final two innings to pick up the win in relief.
With the win, Brooklyn (32-31) remained 3 ½ games behind the Yankees (35-27) in the hunt for the New York-Penn League’s final playoff spot, a number that could have been significantly smaller if the Cyclones hadn’t dropped two of three to their arch rivals at Richmond County Bank Ballpark last week.
Over the weekend, the Cyclones lost three straight in Lowell, putting them out of serious contention for the McNamara Division title as they fell eight lengths behind first-place Hudson Valley (39-22) in the once tightly packed race.
With his worn-out bullpen holding up as well as it could under the circumstances Tuesday evening, Gamboa knew he needed a run as soon as possible to end his team’s four-game slide and maintain some hope that there would be playoff baseball for Brooklyn fans in 2016.
“We had one pitcher left,” Gamboa confessed, ceding that he’d likely have to turn to using position players on the mound if he ran out of relievers.
The decisive rally in the 11th began with Jay Jabs’ single to right field. Dan Rizzie, a catching prospect who is batting a paltry .160, followed with a base hit to move Jabs into scoring position.
Dimino, called up from Rookie-level Kingsport to help the Cyclones deal with the loss of All-Star first baseman Peter Alonso, stroked a laser beam into center off Mahoning Valley reliever Ryan Perez (1-3) that sent Jabs scurrying home with the winning run, launching a celebration at home plate that included a Gatorade bath for Dimino.
“It starts with the pitching, which was terrific,” Gamboa said. “I’m glad we mustered enough offense to get the win.”
Mustering enough offense to back a rock-solid rotation, spearheaded by All-Star right-hander Harol Gonzalez, has been the Cyclones’ problem all year long as they rank second-to-last on the 14-team circuit with a collective .215 batting average.
“Obviously through 63 games, it is what it is,” Gamboa readily confessed of his perpetually slumping offense.
“We’re hitting .215. I know that the talent level here is definitely better than a year ago, but it’s not reflected in the way the team has hit.”
With 13 games remaining on the schedule, including what could be a critical season-ending home-and-home set with the Yankees from Sept. 4-5, Brooklyn can ill-afford to not capitalize on fine pitching performances like the one they got from Jacobsen and his bullpen mates on Tuesday.
Justin Dunn, the Mets’ first-round pick out of Boston College in this year’s MLB Draft, was scheduled to be on the hill for Wednesday’s game against the Scrappers.
Dunn is 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in eight outings, including five starts, since making his Brooklyn debut on July 4.
Following their series with Mahoning Valley, the Cyclones will visit Williamsport for three games this coming weekend, host Auburn, take a quick trip to Aberdeen and then square off against the Yankees for the final two games, hoping they will still hold significant meaning in the playoff race.
But as Gamboa reluctantly noted Tuesday night, “through 63 games, it is what it is.”
And thus far, for the fourth straight summer, it just hasn’t been good enough.
This, That and the Other Thing: Dimino is 3-for-9 in three games for the Cyclones after batting a solid .325 with a homer and 15 RBIs in 37 games at Kingsport. The 2015 28th-round pick batted .295 for the Gulf Coast League Mets in his first taste of pro action last year. Tuesday was his first game at MCU Park. … Franklin Correa’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh got Brooklyn even Tuesday night, or the Cyclones may have suffered their fifth shutout defeat of the campaign. … The first 2,500 fans who show up at MCU Park for Thursday night’s series finale against Mahoning Valley will get an early stocking stuffer as the team will hand out Ugly Holiday Sweater Jerseys.
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