By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It's a credit to Cyclones pitching coach Marc Valdes that his young hurlers expect performances like the one they got out of Gabriel Ynoa on Tuesday night in Lowell, Mass.
The 19-year-old Dominican right-hander, one of four Cyclones pitchers selected to next week's New York-Penn League All-Star Game, tossed a season-high seven innings of four-hit ball with eight strikeouts and no walks as Brooklyn blanked Lowell, 1-0, for its circuit-leading seventh shutout of the season before 3,311 fans at LeLacheur Park.
Ynoa (4-1) set the tone for the aptly nicknamed Baby Bums' league-best staff on Opening Day, pitching Brooklyn to a 2-0 victory over archrival Staten Island at MCU Park on June 18. The 6-foot-2, 158-pound third-year pro hasn't slowed down since, going at least six innings in each of his nine outings while yielding two runs or fewer eight times.
The youngest starting pitcher in the 12-year history of the Cyclones has worked closely with Valdes, a former big leaguer, on displaying the confidence, pitch location and winning spirit of a hurler far beyond his years. By issuing only seven walks in 55 innings thus far this summer, Ynoa is remaining true to Valdes' oft-repeated mantra of throwing strikes and challenging batters, rather than working around them and hoping they'll swing at something out of the strike zone.
Ynoa's rapid development on Coney Island after he went 7-8 with a 2.52 ERA in his first two pro campaigns split between the Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League and Rookie-level Kingsport, hasn't been lost on Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly.
"He has the poise of a much older pitcher, you watch him sometimes and think, 'Wow, this guy's a veteran and he's only 19 years old,'" Donnelly told MLB.com after watching Ynoa pitch six one-hit frames in Brooklyn's 1-0, 15-inning win at Staten Island on July 19.
"He doesn't throw 95 [mph], but he knows how to change speeds and spot his fastball. He's always strike one. Very rarely goes into counts where it's 2-1, 3-1," Donnelly added. "He'd be hell at a carnival, he'd come home with a whole bag full of stuffed animals."
Though he's thrived in the "carnival" atmosphere on Surf Avenue this season, Ynoa has also helped Brooklyn put together the second-best road record in the NY-Penn by going 3-1 with a 1.45 ERA in five starts away from MCU Park. With the parent-club Mets intent on developing young talent throughout their minor league chain, rather than spending big in free agency, Ynoa looks like a brilliant pickup after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2009.
On Wednesday against the Spinners, he set down the first eight Lowell batters in order before working around four harmless singles and an error the rest of the way. Paul Sewald, yet to be scored upon this summer, came out of the bullpen and completed the shutout with two no-hit innings as Brooklyn won its fifth in a row and remained two games behind McNamara Division-leading Hudson Valley while improving to 31-18.
The only offense the Cyclones needed to boost their overall road record to a staggering 17-7 was provided by Florida State product Jayce Boyd, who cleared the left-field wall with his second homer of the season in the top of the fourth.
Brooklyn was scheduled to resume its three-game series in Lowell on Wednesday night.
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This, That and the Other Thing: Sewald, who was the Mets' 10th-round pick out of the University of San Diego in June, extended his scoreless run to 19 2/3 innings by picking up his third save of the year Tuesday in Lowell. The 22-year-old righty has struck out 21 while allowing only 12 hits during his season-opening run. Despite his 0.00 ERA, Sewald joined a list of several notable Cyclones who did not receive an invite to the Aug. 14 All-Star Game at Mahoning Valley's Eastwood Field. This marked just the second time in Cyclones history, and first since 2008, that Brooklyn didn't send a single position player to the contest. That means up-and-coming Mets draftees like 1B Boyd, CF Brandon Nimmo, SS Phillip Evans, RF Eudy Pina, LF Stefan Sabol and C Kevin Plawecki were all left off the squad. ... As far as notable Brooklyn pitchers excluded from the All-Star roster, RHP Rainy Lara has to be the most glaring exemption. At 6-1 with a 2.56 ERA, the 6-foot-4, 21-year-old hurler is tied for the league lead in victories. Also, RHP Tyler Vanderheiden, Brooklyn's most frequently used closer this summer, didn't get the All-Star nod despite posting a team-high eight saves and boasting a miniscule 0.66 ERA in 15 appearances. ... The Cyclones will be back at MCU Park on Friday night for the opener of a three-game series with Vermont.