By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Perhaps the Cyclones should consider forfeiting home-field advantage during their upcoming six-game homestand.
Brooklyn's "Road Warriors" improved to 16-7 away from the once-friendly confines of MCU Park with Monday night's 5-1 victory at Mahoning Valley, capping a much-needed 4-2 road trip and remaining within striking distance — two games — of first-place Hudson Valley in the McNamara Division.
The Cyclones, who will host Connecticut on Surf Avenue Wednesday night, are just 9-10 at home this year.
Undisputed staff ace Rainy Lara (5-1) dazzled Scrappers batters over seven strong innings Monday, striking out 10 while yielding a run on only three hits with no walks to lower his season ERA to 2.72. Like most of his young teammates, the 6-foot-4, 21-year-old Dominican right-hander has been especially brilliant on the road this summer, improving to 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA in four starts outside Coney Island. At home this year, Lara is 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in three outings.
"Here’s a guy who was a closer all through last year," Brooklyn manager Rich Donnelly said earlier this month of Lara, who went 1-2 with a 2.22 ERA and six saves in 16 relief outings for the Gulf Coast League Mets last season. "I don’t think he started a game. He’s done terrific."
While Cyclones pitchers continue to perform well, be it at home or on the road, the Brooklyn offense kicked into high gear during the final two games of the series with Mahoning Valley.
Center fielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2011 draft, was at the forefront of the Baby Bums' resurgence at the plate. The 19-year-old Wyoming native went 7-for-11 with a homer, three doubles and three RBIs as Brooklyn took two of three from the Scrappers. Nimmo also put together his first career four-hit game as a professional in Sunday's 10-5 rout of Mahoning Valley, and is up to .252 for the season after struggling to climb over the Mendoza line (.200) earlier this month.
After Lara gave up a first-inning run to the Scrappers Monday night, the Brooklyn offense made sure it wouldn't leave him hanging, putting up two quick runs in the third on Jayce Boyd's single, which plated Eudy Pina and Nimmo, before Stefan Sabol ripped a two-RBI base knock of his own in the fifth to give Lara a 4-1 cushion.
Nimmo's 13th double of the summer drove home the game's final run in the sixth, giving him a team-high 24 RBIs.
With 26 hits in their past two games, the Cyclones (25-17) are hoping to carry their road momentum back home, where they can continue to fortify their position as the New York-Penn League's wild-card leader while hunting down the first-place Renegades (27-15), who have won eight of their last 10 games.