The worst thing about the Cyclones’ double-jeopardy heartbreak on Monday — their playoff dreams died despite a final-game victory because of a season-end wildcard tie with the Connecticut Tigers — was that it didn’t have to happen. The Clones could have cruised to victory had they not fallen apart at the plate in previous games.
Going into the last game against the hated Staten Island Yankees, the Mini-Mets were tied with the Connecticut Tigers for first in the wildcard standings. But due to New York–Penn League rules, the Cyclones had to win and the Tigers had to lose in order for the Clones to clinch the slot. So it was no consolation that the Cyclones creamed their rivals from across the Narrows 3–1 on Monday because the Tigers logged a dramatic 9–8 win against the Lowell Spinners.
But the real defeat unfolded more slowly during the preceding week, as Cyclone bats fell asleep during crucial parts a three-game series against the Tri-City Valleycats and never once woke up in time. The Brooklyn squad lost each of the three games by one, making the losses smart that much more. The pitching was strong as ever, and the top of the lineup made some hits, but the bottom just could not bring the runners home, going 0–18 in one particularly ugly outing on Aug. 30.
“We wondered if we were ever going to score in those three games, and we got zero help from five through nine in the lineup all three days.” manager Tom Gamboa said. “That just killed us.”
Getting swept by the Valleycats dropped the wildcard-standings-leading Cyclones into a dead heat with the Tigers who, because they were 6–4 against the Mini-Mets for the season, got the wildcard spot in the tie.
There was constant talk about the postseason in the press box during the last week of play, but it was quite the opposite inside the clubhouse, as Gamboa made clear.
“We haven’t talked about the postseason because we’re not there,” Gamboa said before the ignominious end.
Gamboa wanted to keep the team’s focus on the task at hand — winning — but by the time they kicked into gear against the Yankees it was too little, too late.
Brooklyn’s home team went through it all this season, enduring season-ending injuries to key players, a franchise-high season errors, and one of the worst losing streaks in franchise history. But there are some good bits mixed in with all the bad. The Cyclones’ pitching has been some of the best in the New York–Penn League with Marcos Molina taking the three titles of top earned-run average, most strikeouts, and most wins. And the addition of high-priced draft pick Michael Conforto lit a fire under the team and made everyone better, allowing the playoff push to happen in the first place.
But almost doesn’t put more games on the schedule.