Pitching-rich Cyclones off to hot start
Starters setting tone as Brooklyn holds on for third straight win
Second-year Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo intimated even before this season began that pitching would be the key to Brooklyn’s success in 2018.
Through four games, the former Mets second baseman has been proven right.
Venezuelan right-hander Jaison Vilera became the latest Cyclones starter to deliver a solid effort as Brooklyn ran its early season winning streak to three games Monday night with a rain-delayed 9-7 victory over Hudson Valley in front of 3,224 partially soaked fans at Coney Island’s MCU Park.
“The pitching staff looks much better than last year and that will be huge for us early in the season,” Alfonzo noted during his preseason presser last Thursday afternoon as Brooklyn prepared to shake off the remnants of last year’s franchise-worst 24-52 disaster.
“We have a bunch of guys who can throw hard.”
Vilera followed strong performances by Opening Day starter Christian James (five scoreless innings), Brian Campusano (six shutout frames) and reigning Sterling Award winner Nicolas Debora (two runs over 4 2/3 innings) under sweltering conditions Monday.
With a first-pitch temperature of 82 degrees, not including the oppressive humidity that engulfed the Cyclones’ stadium by the sea, Vilera limited the Renegades to a run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts over the first four frames.
Brooklyn starters have yielded only three runs over a combined 15 innings through the seasons’ first week, helping the Cyclones to a 3-1 mark and an early lead in the McNamara Division race.
“The good thing about this year is we have a lot of guys we can play around with on the pitching staff,” Alfonzo said of his new and revamped group of hurlers, one that appears far superior to the one that owned a league-worst 4.18 ERA a season ago.
“We have better relievers than last year, because this league is pretty much about pitching,” Alfonzo added. “We have a great group of guys who can do the job.”
Ryan McAuliffe, who made four appearances, including two starts, for Brooklyn in 2017, was slated to help continue the strong starting trend Tuesday night, when the Cyclones resumed their three-game set with Hudson Valley.
Vilera, who was getting his first taste of Class A after working at the Rookie-ball level in the Dominican and Gulf Coast Leagues the previous two seasons, worked out of a couple of jams early Monday evening.
He allowed back-to-back singles in the opening frame before striking out two of the next three batters and filled the bases in the second but limited the damage to Ford Proctor’s sacrifice fly before escaping further trouble.
After settling in, Vilera set down Hudson Valley in order over the next two innings and left with two men on in the fifth as Billy Oxford (1-0) came out of the pen and delivered a rally killing double play grounder and strikeout to snuff the threat.
Of course, the Cyclones’ bats sizzled throughout the night as 2017 holdover Jose Miguel Medina resumed his torrid start to the campaign.
The Dominican-born right-fielder went 4-for-5 with a run scored and two RBIs to pace a 14-hit Brooklyn attack. Medina’s two-run triple in the bottom of the second sparked a five-run outburst for the Cyclones (3-1), who have outscored the opposition 20-9 since a season-opening 3-1 loss in Staten Island last Friday night.
Designated hitter Chase Chambers, the Mets’ 18th-round pick out of Tennessee Tech in this month’s MLB Draft, went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored for Brooklyn, which nearly faltered down the stretch as the Renegades rallied for six runs over the final two innings.
But University of Michigan alum Mac Lozer finally settled matters by getting Erik Ostberg to line out to right field with a man on second for the game’s final out, recording his first save of the summer and assuring Brooklyn of its first three-game winning streak since a season-high six-game run from Aug. 30-Sept, 2, 2017.
For a team that couldn’t hit, field or pitch last summer, the 2018 Cyclones are at least inspiring early hope that this could be the year the team snaps its postseason drought.
The Baby Bums haven’t reached the NY-Penn playoffs since 2012, when Rich Donnelly, the team’s current bench coach, was managing the second of his three seasons on Surf Avenue.
“We have to throw these guys right in the water and see if they can swim” Donnelly said after Saturday night’s 7-0 blanking of Staten Island in the home opener.
Through four games, at least, they are swimming just fine on Coney Island.
This, That and the Other Thing: Brooklyn’s own Manny Rodriguez, the Mets’ third-round selection in the draft two weeks ago, sat out Monday night after participating in the Cyclones’ first three contests. The 20-year-old Fort Greene native is 1-for-11 with an RBI thus far during his initial foray into professional baseball. … Medina’s stay in Coney Island probably won’t last long if he continues to dominate at the short-season level. He is batting .438 (7-for-16) with a triple, two RBIs and three runs scored during the campaign’s opening week and could be slated for promotion soon. Medina spent 63 games in Brooklyn last summer, batting .262 with a homer and 20 RBIs.
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