The Cyclones were in first place in the McNamara Division following Monday’s 7–6 comeback win at Lowell despite a struggling offense, a half game ahead of the Staten Island Yankees, the Evil Empire of the New York-Penn League, at the halfway point of the season.
But it doesn’t have to be so close, because Brooklyn has lost its share of strange games.
There was the game against the hated Baby Bombers where Carlos Valdez balked in the winning run while attempting to intentionally walk a Yankee.
Then there was the loss in Hudson Valley where it looked like the Cyclones turned a 9–2 double play to get out of the 10th inning, but the home plate umpire ruled that Brandon Brosher had illegally blocked the plate. It was the first game in New York–Penn League history to end in that fashion.
Then Batavia won the rubber match of a three-game series in Brooklyn with the only run in a 1–0 game scored on a passed ball by Brosher.
It isn’t all bad, though. The Cyclones have won six games in which the offense was held to five hits or fewer — and manager Tom Gamboa hasn’t missed the most important part of the Cyclones winning ways.
“From day one to now, pitching is what it’s about,” said Gamboa after Brooklyn’s 3–1 win over Batavia last Friday.
Gamboa was joking before the series began with his friend Angel Espada, the Batavia manager.
“This’ll be an interesting series because your team is leading the league in hitting and we’re at the very bottom, but we’re at the top in pitching and your team’s at the bottom.”
The Cyclones skipper wasn’t laughing after Batavia, last-place in the Pinckney Division, took two out of three from Brooklyn.
Brooklyn was shutout on two hits in the final game of the series, a 1–0 loss. The team did bounce back the next night with a 7–6 come -from-behind victory against Lowell.
The players, coaches and fans must wonder how well the team could play in the second half of the season if the bats are even just a little better. With a multitude of sub-.200 hitters, the Clones’ team batting average is in the bottom five of all of all of minor league baseball.
“It’s discouraging because I think the coaches and I believe that the guys are capable of hitting better than what they’ve done,” Gamboa said last week. “But the statistics don’t lie. We’re arguably the worst-hitting team in all of professional baseball.”
Still, there are some good signs from the offense. The team has hit 21 homers in the first 42 games, after hitting 21 during the entire 2014 season.
Jeff Diehl leads the team with four homers, as his patience at the plate is paying off. Diehl walked only four times last season but has already drawn 18 walks this year.
David Thompson is second on the team with 15 runs batted in, despite missing the first week of the season. The fourth-round draft pick, who was a power threat with the Miami Hurricanes, hit his second homer of the season last Saturday.
“To hit a home run anywhere is super hard,” Thompson said after his dinger against Batavia. “You just have to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it and today I was able to do that. But definitely with the wood bats, it’s a lot harder than with aluminum.”
Vinny Siena is hitting above .300 and is tied for the team lead with six stolen bases. Tucker Tharp also has six stolen bases and added his first two homers as a professional.
Brandon Brosher has 14 runs batted in, although 10 of them came on three swings. A grand slam, three-run homer, and three-run double accounted for most of the damage.
Alex Palsha may be the team’s most valuable player with a league-high 10 saves, although tremendous relief from Corey Taylor, Craig Missigman and P.J. Conlon made those saves possible.
Gaby Almonte, who always seems to find a way to work out of jams, has a team-high five wins. Southpaw Kevin Canelon has four wins.
Can the Cyclones hold on without stellar hitting? Will the pitching hold up? Can the Clones hold back the hated Yankees?
Half way down, half way to go, and we’re looking at it like the glass is half full.