Brooklyn eliminated from playoff race after four-game slide
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Cyclones took a long, hard road to first place in the McNamara Division this past month, only to find a trap door waiting for them at the top of the standings.
A brutal four-game losing streak, lowlighted by a gutwrenching two-game home sweep at hands of newly crowned McNamara champion Aberdeen, dropped Brooklyn out of contention, and out of the postseason for the first time in four years.
The Cyclones (37-36) entered Friday night's game at Staten Island clinging to a half-game lead over the IronBirds in the hunt for the division's top spot, but dropped a 9-3 decision to the upset-minded Yankees, who stole the season series, 7-6, from Brooklyn.
“When you know you are not going to the postseason, there is only one other goal, and that’s to try and play spoiler," Baby Bombers third baseman Eric Jagielo, New York's first-round pick in the June MLB Draft, told the Staten Island Advance after belting a two-run homer in the final meeting between the Verrazano rivals.
With Aberdeen in Coney Island for the decisive two-game set, the Cyclones still held destiny within their own hands.
But even that was short-lived as the IronBirds cruised to a 7-0 victory in Saturday's series opener behind seven brilliant innings from starter Sebastien Vader.
Brooklyn had one more chance to retake command of first place, and left-hander Dario Alvarez appeared up to the task of pitching the Cyclones to victory in their biggest game of the summer.
The Dominican southpaw struck out six over 5 2/3 scoreless frames before the normally air-tight Brooklyn bullpen sprung an unexpected leak in the ninth inning, surrendering four runs to give Aberdeen a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the home half of the frame.
Much as they did all summer, however, the Cyclones refused to go quietly.
LJ Mazzilli, the son of former Mets icon Lee Mazzilli and Brooklyn's most consistent everyday player throughout the campaign, started a potential rally for the ages with a leadoff single.
Jared King followed with a base hit and James Roche reached on a throwing error to plate Mazzilli. When Alex Sanchez delivered an RBI groundout and Thomas Nido drilled an RBI single, the Cyclones were just one hit away from forcing extra innings, or even walking off with their biggest victory of the campaign before a crowd of 5,187 Brooklyn baseball fanatics.
However, Aberdeen found a way to escape Surf Avenue with a 5-4 win after Colton Plaia popped out to second and Anthony Chavez flied to right.
The loss dropped Brooklyn 1 1/2 games behind the IronBirds, with only three games at Tri-city remaining.
The Cyclones' season-high fourth consecutive loss, a 3-1 setback to the ValleyCats on Monday night, made it official; There would be no playoff baseball in Brooklyn this September.
The IronBirds nailed down their first playoff berth in 12 years of existence with a 7-3 win over Lowell on Monday night, rendering the Cyclones' final two contests at Tri-City this week meaningless as far as the playoffs are concerned.
One can only hope that the Cyclones' final-week fade doesn't mean the end of Rich Donnelly's stewardship of the Mets' Class A short-season franchise by the sea.
The sage skipper had guided Brooklyn to the postseason in each of his previous two seasons at the helm, and has clearly established himself as a fan favorite, and a great developer of young talent during his record-setting three-year tenure on Coney Island.
Watching the emergence of players like Mazzilli, former first-round pick Gavin Cecchini, King, Roche and Matt Oberste, as well as Brooklyn's All-Star laden pitching staff, points to Donnelly and his staff's effectiveness.
The Cyclones, who spent most of the season's first month and a half, at or near the McNamara cellar, put together a strong late-season push for the third time in as many summers under Donnelly to take first place. They just couldn't hang on to the position when it mattered most this past weekend.
As we say here in Brooklyn, far more often than we'd like, "Wait 'Till Next Year!". And let's hope Donnelly is along for the ride.
This, That and the Other Thing: Though he's straddled .300 at the plate for most of August and early September, 2B Mazzilli is unlikely to finish above the coveted mark as he enters Brooklyn's final two games with a .286 average after going 1-for-15 during the Cyclones' calamitous four-game slide. ... After batting a paltry .077 during an injury-plagued July, SS Cecchini hit .324 in August. ... Though they failed to pitch the Cyclones into the playoffs, the Baby Bums' hurlers put together a brilliant season. RHP John Gant, who hurled a one-hitter last week to thrust Brooklyn into first place, was scheduled to pitch Tuesday night in Brooklyn's penultimate contest at Tri-City. Gant, RHP Robert Gsellman and the rest of the Cyclones' pitchers combined for a 2.80 ERA. second-best on the 14-team circuit. Brooklyn also led the NYPL in shutouts (8), saves (27), least hits allowed (511) and strikeouts (648).
For a comprehensive review of the Cyclones' 13th season on Coney Island, read Friday's Eagle, or log on to www.brooklyneagle.com Thursday afternoon.