The Cyclones can’t hit, and it is becoming a problem for the team’s playoff hopes.
The team just finished a brutal road trip, but the pitching has kept Brooklyn in a battle with the hated Staten Island Yankees for first place in the McNamara Division. Incredibly, the Clones have won eight games when being held to one or two runs.
The tension in the dugout during the games is palpable, says manager Tom Gamboa.
“You can feel the pressure,” he said. “Everybody’s wondering if we’re ever going to score a run again.”
Two key cogs in the pitching staff are Gaby Almonte and Alex Palsha. Both right-handers will represent the Cyclones at Tuesday’s All-Star Game, along with second baseman Vinny Siena.
Following last Sunday’s win against the Yanks, Palsha is 11–for–11 in save opportunities. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 18-and-two-thirds innings of work.
Almonte is 6–3 in 10 starts with a 3.22 earned-run average. His finest work came on Monday in Staten Island when he took a one-hitter into the ninth inning. Almonte retired 20 Yankees in a row from the second through the eighth innings.
The wins against the Evil Empire of the New York-Penn League were critical as they came on the heels of a five-game losing streak in which the Cyclones were held to fewer than three runs in every game. Brooklyn snapped the slide last Sunday with a 2–1, 11-inning triumph. The team showed some fight last Tuesday, coming back from a three-run deficit, but lost in extra innings to fall to one-and-a-half games back in the division.
Brooklyn doesn’t have one .300 hitter. Siena has struggled after a hot start, falling from a .340 average, although he still leads the team. The second baseman did come through with the game-winning single on Sunday in Staten Island.
The hitters have been more effective when forced into emergency mound duty than in their normal roles.
Pedro Perez and Zach Mathieu both took the mound in a 12–0 loss at Lowell. Both position players pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Gamboa was prepared to use Perez again on Monday as only two relievers were available behind Almonte.
Ruben Reyes recovered from some lousy outings and became one of the heroes in last Sunday’s win. The southpaw pitched two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced. He won his first game of the year when Brooklyn scored in the 11th. He also spared the Clones skipper from having to use another position player as a pitcher late in the game.
“The only reason we got the win is Reyes volunteered,” Gamboa said. “That was his fourth outing in six days. I don’t think I’ve ever pitched a pitcher four times in six days.”
If there are going to be playoff games at MCU Park, the Cyclones’ offense will have to step up in the final third of the season.
Gamboa has been lecturing his players for weeks about their tendency to give away at bats, but he says now the lineup needs to show it has been listening.
“We’re meeting-ed out,” Gamboa said. “Talk is irrelevant. No matter how good we pitch, you have to score to win a game.”