Cyclones hang on for big win in Vermont
Escape 9th inning jam to retain lead in NY-Penn wild-card race
Having already committed a season-high four errors for the second time in three nights, the Cyclones looked like a team that was about to give away a ninth-inning lead and its tenuous hold of the New York-Penn League’s final wild card spot.
But with two runs already in and the tying run on base Tuesday night in Vermont, the Baby Bums pulled a great escape thanks to reliever Ryley Gilliam and catcher Nick Meyer, holding on for a much-needed 8-6 victory over the playoff-hopeful Lake Monsters in front of 1,013 fans at Centennial Field.
Brooklyn, which had dropped the first two games of the series while committing a ghastly seven errors, didn’t exactly tighten up its defense in the finale of the three-game set.
Shortstop Angel Manzanerez made two of Brooklyn’s season high-tying four miscues, and third baseman Chandler Avant and first baseman Brian Sharp added one apiece.
Despite the sloppy play behind him, starter Tylor Megill (1-2), the Mets’ eighth-round pick out of the University of Arizona this past June, pitched well enough to pick up his first professional win.
The 23-year-old right-hander from Long Beach, California yielded three runs – all of which were unearned – and three hits while walking one and striking out six over five solid innings.
Designated hitter Walter Rasquin belted his first homer of the summer to highlight a four-run, fourth-inning outburst and Sharp socked a solo shot in the fifth to reach base safely for the 29th consecutive contest as Brooklyn built an early 7-3 cushion.
From there, the Cyclones had to hold on for dear life as their half-game advantage in the tightly packed hunt for the 14-team circuit’s final playoff spot was in jeopardy.
Joshua Walker was tagged for three runs over three innings in relief of Megill before being pulled with two on and none out in the ninth.
All-Star reliever Billy Oxford came in to slam the door, but only opened it further for the Lake Monsters, who were also looking to pull within a half game of the Cyclones in the wild-card race.
He gave up a two-run single to Jose Rivas, aided by Sharp’s throwing error, and walked pinch-hitter Alfonso Rivas before getting Joseph Pena to fly out to center field for the final frame’s first out.
Second-year Cyclones skipper Edgardo Alfonzo had seen enough and summoned Gilliam to save the day.
The parent club’s fifth-round pick out of Clemson delivered the goods, fanning Jeremy Eierman before Meyer gunned down pinch-runner Noah Vaughn on a steal attempt of second, ending the 3-hour, 35-minute marathon and giving Gilliam his fifth save of the summer.
With the win, the Cyclones maintained their half-length lead over Auburn, kept archrival Staten Island one game back and pushed Vermont 2 ½ games behind despite committing an eyesore-inducing 11 errors during the series.
Rasquin, Wagner LaGrange and starting catcher Hayden Senger each drove in a pair of runs for Brooklyn (37-32), which had lost seven of its previous 10 contests to miss out on any serious shot of catching defending NY-Penn champion Hudson Valley for the top spot in the McNamara Division.
The Cyclones returned home to Brooklyn Wednesday night to open a still-critical three-game series with the first-place Renegades, who hold a four-game lead over the Baby Bums with six to play.
Right-hander Briam Campusano (3-6, 5.29 ERA) will start the series opener for Brooklyn, which could at least put some heat on Hudson Valley if it wins Wednesday.
The Cyclones were in sole possession of first place in the division on Aug. 18, but have back-slid since, endangering their hopes of reaching the NY-Penn playoffs for the first time since the summer of 2012.
If the Renegades clinch the division here, they could also do damage to the Cyclones’ wild-card hopes as Brooklyn will end the regular season with a three-game set against the Yankees from Sept. 1-3.
But a successful run over these final six contests, five of which will be played at MCU Park in Coney Island, would give Brooklyn fans something they have been thirsting for during this long, hot summer: postseason baseball.
This, That and the Other Thing: Friday night’s series finale against Hudson Valley will be Military Appreciation Day at MCU Park. All active or retired military personnel will be eligible to receive two free tickets to the game, which can be claimed at the stadium’s box office, based on availability. … The Cyclones will host the S.I. Yanks on Saturday at 6 p.m., travel over the Verrazano for a 1:30 p.m. game on Saturday and return to MCU for the regular-season finale against the Baby Bombers on Labor Day at 4 p.m.
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