Race tightens as Cyclones remain hot
Brooklyn wins season-high 5th straight over Vermont at MCU Park
Playing their best when it matters most is something the Brooklyn Cyclones haven’t come close to achieving over the past five seasons.
This summer appears to be different.
With a critical series against McNamara Division-leading Hudson Valley looming this coming weekend, the Baby Bums made up more ground on the first-place Renegades Wednesday night in Coney Island, knocking off visiting Vermont, 4-1, in front of 5,306 playoff-hopeful fans at MCU Park.
The Cyclones’ season-high fifth straight win moved them within two games of the Renegades in the ongoing hunt for the division crown.
It also kept Brooklyn just one length behind Auburn and Mahoning Valley for the New York-Penn League’s lone wild-card spot.
For a franchise that hasn’t played a playoff game since 2012 and hasn’t participated in meaningful baseball down the stretch since just missing out on a wild-card slot via tiebreaker in 2014, these next three weeks should be fun to watch.
Armed with six NY-Penn All-Stars, including staff ace and Pitcher of the Year candidate Jaison Vilera, the Cyclones are chomping at the bit to grab the organization’s first league championship since their inaugural campaign here in 2001.
While the Renegades were dropping a 5-3 decision across the Verrazano Bridge to the Staten Island Yankees on Wednesday, the Baby Bums got the jump on the Lake Monsters early.
NY-Penn All-Star Game MVP Ross Adolph drew a leadoff walk in the bottom half of the opening frame and eventually scored on Walter Rasquin’s RBI groundout.
In the second, Brooklyn catcher Hayden Senger ripped a run-scoring double and came around to step on the plate when Adolph delivered a two-out line drive single into center field.
That was more than enough offense for Cyclones pitchers, who combined to limit Vermont to four hits on a steam night along Surf Avenue.
Starter Jose Butto (1-0), making his third appearance and second start since being called up from Rookie-Level Kingsport late last month, was brilliant on the hill.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan right-hander yielded an unearned run on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts over a season high-tying six innings.
Brooklyn’s stellar bullpen took over thereafter as Tommy Wilson fanned four over two solid frames before Ezequiel Zabaleta worked a perfect ninth for his first save of the summer.
Brooklyn, which has won as many as four games in a row on four separate occasions during this bounce-back campaign following last year’s 24-52 disaster, was slated to host Vermont in Thursday night’s series finale before traveling up to Dutchess Stadium to take on Hudson Valley Friday.
Vilera, who tossed five scoreless frames in Sunday’s win over Vermont, should be ready to go for the series opener against the Renegades after not pitching during Tuesday’s All-Star Game in State College, Pennsylvania.
The 21-year-old hurler had his worst outing of the season at Hudson Valley on Aug. 5, surrendering four runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings in the first of three consecutive heartbreaking walk-off losses to the Renegades that week.
Overall, the Cyclones are 2-4 against the defending NY-Penn champs this summer, but will play the Renegades six times over the season’s final 20 games, including a three-game set here on Coney Island from Aug. 29-31.
This weekend and those three games later this month will go a long way toward determining if this is the season the Cyclones finally break through and return playoff baseball to Brooklyn.
This, That and the Other Thing: Center fielder Anthony Dirocie capped the scoring Wednesday night by ripping an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth. … Left-hander Josh Walker (0-1, 3.86 ERA) was scheduled to start against Vermont in Thursday’s series finale on Coney Island. The left-hander out of New Haven, Connecticut was reached four runs over 3 1/3 innings in his previous start, a 5-4 Brooklyn loss in Hudson Valley on Aug. 7. … Adolph, who homered, tripled, drove in three runs and scored twice during Tuesday’s All-Star Game, finished 1-for-3 with a walk and two steals Wednesday, giving him nine stolen bases on the season, one shy of team leader Jose Miguel Medina. Ironically, Adolph wasn’t even aware that there was an MVP awarded for the top player in the NY-Penn’s annual late-summer classic. “I had no clue,” he intimated. “Someone told me right after my home run, “MVP is definitely going to you. And I was like, ‘Dude, that’s not a thing.’ And they were like, ‘Trust me, it’s a thing.’ And then, when I got the award, I got Gatorade and some water dumped on me. It was pretty cold, but it was cool.” … After their final series with the Renegades in late August, the Cyclones will close out the regular season with three games against arch rival Staten Island from Sept. 1-3.