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Brooklyn Blues: Cyclones' home struggles continue in 6-3 loss to 'Birds

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Here's the good news: The Cyclones are leaving Coney Island for a week.

Brooklyn's woes at MCU Park continued Tuesday afternoon before a sun-splashed crowd of 7,501, many of them camp kids, in a deflating 6-3 loss to visiting Aberdeen.

With the defeat, the second-place Baby Bums (21-15) slipped to 9-10 for the season at the previously friendly confines on Surf Avenue. By dropping seven of their last eight games at home, the former McNamara Division leaders slipped 1 1/2 games behind first-place Hudson Valley, pending the Renegades' contest in Staten Island on Tuesday night.

Imagine that? The Cyclones needing help from the Yankees to close in on first place.

Brooklyn manager Rich Donnelly, who has watched his young squad post an impressive 12-5 road mark this summer, was at a loss to explain why the 'Clones have struggled so mightily at their always-packed stadium by the sea.

“Some teams play well at home. Other teams play well on the road," the second-year skipper said as his team prepared to play its next six games in Batavia and Mahoning Valley before returning to Brooklyn for an Aug. 1 encounter with Connecticut. 

"The good teams play well both [home and away]," Donnelly added. "There’s no tricks to it. Buddy Bell, a great manager and great player I once worked for said, 'Sometimes the answer is I don’t know.'”

The suddenly anemic offense has been the main culprit during Brooklyn's late-July swoon as it owns the worst batting average with runners in scoring position in the New York-Penn League. The 'Clones have also grounded into more double-plays (41, including two on Tuesday) than any other club on the 14-team circuit.

After building an early 2-0 lead against the IronBirds, who bested Brooklyn 2-0 on Monday night, the 'Clones were outpowered by Aberdeen as right fielder Lucas Herbst and catcher Sam Kimmel both connected for their first pro homers. First baseman Cameron Edman belted a two-run shot as the 'Birds competed a two-game sweep of the Baby Bums.

“We made some mistakes and they punished us for them," Donnelly lamented. "They scored six runs and four of them came on home runs."

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Brooklyn appeared ready to rally back, but after Eudy Pina singled and Juan Gamboa reached on a throwing error by the shortstop to set up runners at the corners and none out, Dimas Ponce hit into a double-play, plating Pina but killing the inning. Kevin Plawecki singled leading off the eighth, but Stefan Sabol grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, thwarting yet another comeback bid.

Brooklyn catcher Nelfi Zapata is mired in an 0-for-29 slump at the plate as the Cyclones embark on a six-game road trip this week. Eagle photo by Bill Kotsatos

“If you’re in a boxing match, it’s pretty tough to win if you don’t throw a punch," Donnelly said. "Right now, we’re not punching.”

Brooklyn starter Rainy Lara tossed six solid innings, yielding two runs and five hits with a walk and six strikeouts. But the normally reliable Brooklyn bullpen was unable to hold off the 'Birds as reliever Tim Peterson was roughed up for three runs on four hits while retiring only two batters in the seventh.

"Pitching and defense have been solid," noted Donnelly. "You can’t blame them at all. Overall, they’ve done a good job of keeping us in the game. We can’t go out there every night and get five or six hits.”

Following the defeat, the quiet Brooklyn clubhouse was busily preparing for the extended road trip. Donnelly, for one, isn't so sure changing locales is the secret to his team's success.

“Nobody’s ready for a seven-hour bus ride," he said. "Hopefully we can go out there and regain the form we had earlier in the year when we were hitting and weren’t worried about anything. Right now, we're not a good team."

* * *
This, That and the Other Thing: RF Pina's final at-bat Tuesday afternoon was a bizarre one, to say the least. Hitting with two out and none on in the bottom of the ninth inning, the 21-year-old Dominican native hit a soaring pop up that appeared to be well foul off the bat. But much to everyone's amazement, the ball fell safely and out of the grasp of Aberdeen catcher Kimmel, who was charged with an error on the play. Pina, assuming the ball was foul, didn't run at first, but quickly scurried to first, which was left uncovered after the 'Birds infielders converged to help with the high pop. Pina was a bit embarrassed by what may have been perceived as a lack of effort on the play, but Donnelly quickly shot down any such notions in the post-game press conference. "He probably thought that that was a foul ball by 20 feet," Donnelly said. "I know Eudy hustles as much as anyone and he felt bad about it. He would never just stand there and not run the ball out.” ... CF Brandon Nimmo, batting eighth Tuesday, drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning to boost his team-leading RBI total to 20, one more than Pina. ... The Cyclones lead the NY-Penn with a .976 fielding percentage. ... C Nelfi Zapata remained hitless for July on Tuesday, going 0-for-4 to fall to 0-for-29 since his last base hit on June 28.
July 24, 2012 - 3:59pm


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