Cyclones fail to close in on Renegades
Suffer back-to-back heartbreaking losses in Hudson Valley
The Cyclones went to Hudson Valley this weekend with high hopes of narrowing the gap between themselves and the McNamara Division-leading Renegades.
Instead, they find themselves even further back in the hunt for the division title after suffering back-to-back heartbreaking losses to their upstate rivals.
A pair of ninth-inning leads evaporated in the humid conditions as Brooklyn fell, 6-5, on both Sunday evening and Monday night via — of all things — a walk-off balk in the series opener and Ford Proctor’s soul-crushing two-run walk-off homer.
With the mind-numbing defeats, which were reminiscent of the Yankees’ recent weekend debacle in Boston, the playoff-hopeful Cyclones (26-24) fell 4 1/4 games behind the first-place Renegades (30-19) and remained 2 1/2 games back of Auburn (28-21) for the New York-Penn League’s lone wild-card spot.
On Sunday, the Cyclones sent staff ace Jaison Vilera to the hill against the Renegades riding a league-best 29 1/3 scoreless innings streak.
The top candidate for NY-Penn Pitcher of the Year honors immediately gave back a run in the bottom of the first after being staked to a 2-0 advantage on Chase Chambers’ two-run blast, his third home of the campaign.
Vilera was reached for an uncharacteristic four runs on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts over just 4 1/3 frames, but that didn’t seem to matter when the Baby Bums entered the bottom of the ninth with a 5-4 advantage.
However, normally reliable reliever Yeudy Colon couldn’t make the lead hold up despite retiring the first two batters he faced.
Adrian Rondon walked, Allen Smoot and Marvin Malone delivered back-to-back singles to even the contest and with Smoot on third and Malone on second after swiping the bag, Colon balked home the winning run for his second blown save of the summer.
Jose Miguel Medina’s clutch, two-out RBI double again gave Brooklyn a 5-4 lead entering the ninth inning Monday night. But this time it was Ryley Gilliam, the Mets’ fifth-round pick out of Clemson last month, who couldn’t slam the door on the Renegades.
Gilliam, who had held opponents scoreless in his first eight outings of the summer, walked Rondon to begin the ninth and then surrendered Proctor’s game-winning blast over the wall in right-center field.
The reeling Cyclones were slated to take on the Renegades again Tuesday night, hoping to at least salvage one game in the critical series before opening a three-game set against Connecticut here in Coney Island on Wednesday.
But with just under a month to go in their season while having lost all but one of their first five meetings with Hudson Valley, regaining control of their own fate in the McNamara seems unlikely unless the Cyclones find the formula for beating the Renegades later this month.
The division rivals will square off at Dutchess Stadium again from Aug. 17-19 and have a three-game set scheduled here in Brooklyn from Aug. 29-31.
Following that, the ’Clones will have a season-ending three-game set with Staten Island from Sept. 1-3, one they hope will only spell the closing of the regular season as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Considering that they have already exceeded last year’s win total (24) and are in the hunt for a postseason spot, this season has been a very positive one for the Baby Bums thus far.
Capping it by reaching the playoffs for the first time in six seasons remains the ultimate goal.
This, That and the Other Thing: Rehabbing Triple-A Las Vegas hurler Eric Hanhold made his Cyclones debut on Monday night, starting the game and tossing two scoreless frames while allowing one hit and striking out one … CF Anthony Dirocie went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored Monday, but following Hanhold’s departure, reliever Jose Butto was tagged for four runs on three hits with three walks over 4 1/3 innings … Brooklyn was slated to send LHP Josh Walker to the hill for Tuesday’s series finale in Hudson Valley. Walker, making just his third start in six appearances this season, has limited opponents to four earned runs over 15 1/3 frames … The Cyclones, who will be dubbed “The Jefes” for their three-game set with Connecticut, will hand out Amed Rosario bobblehead dolls Thursday night to the first 2,000 fans in attendance. The Mets shortstop played 68 games for the Cyclones in 2014, batting .289 with a homer and 23 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
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