By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The standings say the first-place Brooklyn Cyclones shouldn't have much to worry about during this week's four-game series with the third-place Staten Island Yankees, who are struggling to stay in contention in the McNamara Division 30 games into the 76-game grind of the New York-Penn League schedule.
But when it comes to Cyclones-Yankees, you can throw records and standings out the window.
“Always gotta beat Staten Island," Brooklyn shortstop Phillip Evans said of the Verrazano rivalry following the season's first series of the season between the clubs last month. "Yankees-Mets is a crazy rivalry and we try to keep it going down here. We always try to win that ballgame for sure.”
Beginning Thursday night at Richmond County Ballpark in that "other" borough, the Baby Bums and Baby Bombers will kick off the latest installment of their ever-growing feud for Class A short-season supremacy.
To date, the Cyclones hold a 76-68 advantage in the all-time series between the clubs after taking three of four games from the Yankees in June to kick off their 12th season in the NY-Penn.
Brooklyn emerged victorious in the first three meetings, 2-0, 4-1 and 7-2, respectively, before Staten Island averted its first-ever four-game sweep at the hands of the Cyclones with a face-saving 8-1 victory at MCU Park on June 21.
"They’re a strong team, we’re a strong team, but we came out on top," Evans noted after an Opening Night win over the Yankees on June 18.
Of course, the Bombers hold a significant edge over the Bums when it comes to postseason success, having captured six NY-Penn titles compared to the one the Cyclones shared with Williamsport following their inaugural 2001 campaign on Coney Island.
Last September, the Yanks survived an epic late-season push by the Cyclones to hold on to the McNamara Division title before bouncing Brooklyn from the postseason with a three-game triumph in the dramatic first-round playoff series between the rivals, punctuated with a 1-0 triumph at RCBB in the decisive contest.
The Bombers went on to vanquish Auburn en route to capturing the league crown, but thus far this season, the Bombers are scuffling their way through the sweltering summer, having won but 12 of their first 30 contests, including a 3-2 home triumph over Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
Though they enter Thursday's series opener a distant seven games behind the division-leading 'Clones, the Yanks hope to catch fire this weekend and make a serious move up the standings. Staten Island designated hitter/first baseman Matt Snyder provides a perfect example of heating up after a slow start, having begun the season in a miserable 1-for-45 slump before posting a nearly unfathomable .643 average (27-for-42) to boost his overall mark to .322.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. It’s unbelievable,” Yankees manager Justin Pope told the Staten Island Advance regarding Snyder's rags-to-riches performance at the plate. “I’ve never seen it happen before."
Pope is hoping the rest of his struggling unit learns from Snyder's resilience as the Yanks embark on what figures to be a long climb back to the top of the division.
“And I think it’s good for the other guys to see this, that you can get into a hot streak," he added.
The Cyclones prepped for the big series by staving off a challenger for their first-place status Wednesday night, beating second-place Hudson Valley 7-3 in Wappinger Falls, N.Y.
Brooklyn climbed two games above Hudson Valley in the McNamara race, maintaining at least a share of the top position as it has since opening the campaign with its three games to one beatdown of the Yanks.
Catcher Kevin Plawecki, the Mets' supplemental first-round pick in last month's draft, led an 11-hit Brooklyn attack with two singles and a double and Jeff Reynolds and Eudy Pina homered for the Cyclones, who had gone 10 long games without hitting one out of the yard.
The Bums don't figure to be intimidated by a hostile crowd in S.I. as they boast an impressive 11-4 road mark this season, including two wins by a combined score of 11-3 at RCBB last month.
Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly will send Opening Night starter Gabriel Ynoa (1-1, 3.30 ERA) to the hill for the series opener against the Yanks. The 19-year-old Dominican right-hander had his way with the Bombers in his Brooklyn debut, scattering three hits and walking one while striking out four over six brilliant innings.
The Yanks will counter with southpaw Jeremy Bleich, who has yet to face the Cyclones after beginning the season in the Gulf Coast League.
The series will continue Friday night at MCU Park and head back to Staten Island on Saturday before Sunday evening's finale back on Surf Avenue.
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This, That and the Other Thing: The Cyclones have just got to love rainy days. That is, whenever 6-foot-4 RHP Rainy Lara takes the mound. The 21-year-old Dominican hurler improved to 4-1 with Wednesday's win over Hudson Valley, yielding two earned runs on five hits over five solid innings before the stout Brooklyn bullpen closed the door on the Renegades. ... RHP Tyler Vanderheiden, who closed out the Yanks in the Cyclones' season-opening win, continued his scoreless streak Wednesday by tossing a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Through his first 10 appearances as a professional, the 22-year-old sidewinder out of Samford University has fired 8 2/3 scoreless innings, surrendering seven hits and three walks while striking out seven. Vanderheiden leads the Cycloens and ranks third in the NY-Penn with five saves this summer. ... CF Brandon Nimmo provided some insurance Wednesday with a two-run double in the top of the ninth, giving him a team-high 19 RBIs. ... Prior to Sunday's series finale with Staten Island, the Cyclones will honor Coney Island resident Steven St. Bernard, a city bus driver who heroically saved the life of a seven-year girl after she fell three stories from an air conditioning unit outsider her family's apartment on Monday. St. Bernard will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 5 p.m. contest at MCU Park.