Brooklyn booms back into contention with five-game winning streak
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
These "colts" apparently needed a little more breaking.
But thanks to the patient, unwavering guidance of manager Rich Donnelly, the 2013 Brooklyn Cyclones finally appear to be hitting their stride just in time for the stretch run.
Carlos Valdez pitched six strong innings, Akeel Morris logged the final three frames and Matt Oberste continued Brooklyn's recent power surge with a solo homer as the Baby Bums extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a 4-0 victory over first-place Hudson Valley on Monday night before 6,328 fans at Coney Island's MCU Park.
The win completed a two-game sweep of the Renegades, and pulled the Cyclones within two games of the Renegades with 36 to play.
Perhaps more importantly, Brooklyn finally climbed back to the .500 mark (20-20) after lingering in or near the McNamara cellar for the better part of the first half of the season.
"These are babies, colts running in the field," Donnelly admitted before entering his record-setting third season at the helm of the Mets' short-season Class A affilate by the sea. "This is their first year of pro ball. Hopefully, they can improve."
After leading the Cyclones to back-to-back playoff appearances during his first two seasons on the job, Donnelly is once again in position to spearhead a second-half charge toward the franchise's first New York-Penn League Championship since the magical 2001 campaign on Surf Avenue.
Pitching has been at the forefront of the Cyclones' resurgence.
Reigning New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week Miller Diaz won his third straight decision at Staten Island on Saturday to cap a two-game sweep of the last-place Baby Bombers. Robert Gsellman throttled the Yankees on Friday night with a 2-0 gem, and John Gant allowed a run over six innings to best the visiting Renegades, 4-2, here on Sunday.
Valdez, winless in his first seven starts despite a handful of solid outings during that stretch, made sure he picked up victory No. 1 on Monday evening.
The 22-year-old Dominican left-hander limited Hudson Valley to four hits and a walk before Morris notched his first save of the campaign old-school style, yielding two hits and a walk with three strikeouts over the last three innings.
Morris, who has also been used as a starter this season, added to Brooklyn's dominant "pen"-manship. Cyclones relievers have specialized not only in preserving leads, but keeping the team in games on the rare occasions when starters have flamed out early.
The trio of John Mincone, David Wynn and Tim Peterson have combined to post a 0.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 29 appearances since mid-June. Morris, a 20-year-old right-hander from the Virgin Islands, has now tossed 25 consecutive innings without yielding an earned run.
"We know that, when it's coming down to the end of the game, it's our time," Peterson told MiLB.com after stretching his personal scoreless streak to 16 2/3 frames.
Of course, the offense did its share Monday night.
L.J. Mazzilli climbed back over the .300 mark (.303 to be exact) with a pair of hits, James Roche drove in two runs and Oberste, Brooklyn's most potent run-producer this summer, belted his second longball in the second inning to give Brooklyn all the run(s) it would need to remain the circuit's hottest team.
With seven victories in their last 10 games overall, the Cyclones now embark on a six-game road trip through Williamsport and Jamestown.
Southpaw Dario Alvarez, who struck out a career-high 12 over six one-hit innings at Lowell last week, will likely be on the mound when the Cyclones open a three-game set against the CrossCutters at Bowman Field on Tuesday night.
This, That and the Other Thing: RHP Morris has yielded 12 hits, struck out 31 and walked 12 during his as-yet-unblemished start to the campaign. ... After managing just four homers in their first 36 games of the season, the Cyclones have gone deep four times in the last four contests. 3B Anthony Chavez and 1B Alex Sanchez connected on Sunday and C Ed Rohan delivered a solo blast last Friday night leading into Oberste's shot over the left-field fence Monday. ... Oberste has a team-high 17 RBIs this season, despite a .227 batting average. ... 2B Mazzilli has been the steadiest presence in the Brooklyn lineup, and continues to impress in the infield. The son of former Mets great Lee Mazzilli apparently prefers hitting on the road, however, logging an impressive .329 average in 21 home games compared to his solid .271 mark in 19 home dates. ... The Cyclones won't come back to MCU Park until Aug. 6, whey they open a three-game set against Williamsport at 7 p.m. ... The Cyclones are calling for a borough-wide "Day Off" next Wednsday as Brooklyn hosts Connecticut on Aug. 7 with a special 11 a.m. start time. For tickets to the businessperson's special, click here http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?&agency=CYC_PLAGENCY&pid=...
For more on the Cyclones throughout the summer, make sure to check out Rob Abruzzese's "Around the Borough" sports report via the Eagle sports blog at http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/around-borough-brooklyn-sports-new...