Cyclone right-hander Hansel Robles took the hill for the Cyclones on Friday night at MCU Park at Coney Island in the New York Penn League semi-finals opener against Hudson Valley. Robles shocked the crowd, his teammates, and even his manager, as he hurled a complete game four-hit shutout, walking none and striking out ten, to defeat the Hudson Valley Renegades by a score of 4-0 in game one of the best-of-three series. It was Robles’ first complete game of his career.
Brooklyn scored once in the first and three more times in the second inning, to give Robles all the cushion he would require in bringing home a very crucial game one victory. Phillip Evans shined defensively at shortstop as well, showing off good range, and a powerful throwing arm. He was also the hitting star going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
As for Robles, a 5’11″ righty from the Dominican Republic, last night’s performance left his manager Rich Donnelly a little bit in awe after the game. “I think it’s 42 scoreless” (Robles has actually not allowed an earned run since July 28, a stretch spanning 45.2 innings) “It just blows my mind. That’s not the same kid that came to Port St. Lucie March 3rd. He’s a different kid. This is even more incredible. In 13 starts, this is incredible, this has never happened, anywhere. He’s given up more than one run, once.”
“He’s learned how to compose himself. Get the ball, go to the rubber, and pitch. Bad call, no problem. Hit a guy, no problem. Give up a bloop, no problem. Course before, he’d be walking around the mound, he’d be halfway to second base. August 29th he got married and hopefully he’s grown up a little bit, and that’s what part of this process is, it’s sometimes when you grow up it also helps your baseball career. Because you see things in a different light. He probably signed when he was 16 or 17 so….I didn’t see this coming. I was completely blindsided.”
After the game Robles described his method of attacking the Renegades hitters. “My approach was to get the hitters out with the least amount of pitches and go right after hitters,” he said afterwards through a translator. “I’ve been really focusing on working on pitching inside. My pitching coach (Marc Valdes) told me that pitching inside leads to better things. I’ve been focusing on working on the inside part of the plate. I used my sinking fastball and I’ll cut the fastball a little so it cuts in on lefties.”
The 22-year-old Robles was dominant from the start and threw 102 pitches in the game. After allowing a single to the second hitter he faced, he retired the next twelve in a row. He only let one runner get to second base all night, and that was with two outs in the eighth inning, and was never in any kind of trouble during the game. Afterwards I asked him what pitch he got most of his strikeouts with, and he told me his fastball and his slider were his two strikeout pitches during the game.
He went the full nine, giving up four singles, of which only one was hit hard. He struck out ten Renegades, and walked none. Despite his impeccable command last night, he did hit Renegade catcher Jake DePew with a pitch with two outs and nobody on in the eighth inning, and Brooklyn up 4-0. Coincidentally, Robles teammate third-baseman Dimas Ponce, was plunked hard by a pitch, back in the first inning….hmmm.
The Brooklyn offense started it off in the first inning when Brandon Nimmo led off with a single, followed by the Ponce plunking. Phil Evans then hit into a double-play moving Nimmo to third. First-baseman Jayce Boyd then came up with a big two-out hit up the middle to score Nimmo with what would be all the runs they would require, and a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second the Cyclones would bat around, but only get three runs. Left-fielder Stefan Sabol led off with an infield single and went to second on a throwing error by the third-baseman Richie Shaffer. Cyclone second-baseman Juan Carlos Gamboa attempted to sacrifice but the Renegades starter Jesse Hahn botched the play to put men on first and third.
After one out, DH Jorge Rivero had a huge hit, a line-drive double down the left-field line to score Sabol, making it 2-0 and putting runners on second and third. Nimmo was then intentionally walked, to the dismay of the crowd. It was then that Dimas Ponce exacted sweet revenge for being hit by a pitch in his first at-bat. He launched a single to right to score Gamboa, making it now 3-0.
Phillip Evans then capped the scoring by lining a single to left, scoring Rivero and making it 4-0. The Cyclones finished with just the four runs despite getting ten hits in the game, which left the manager a little concerned about where the offense is going to come from in the rest of the series. “We didn’t get that big double off the wall I’ve been looking for since July 4th, maybe before we leave here we’ll get it.”
With Brooklyn now leading the series 1-0, the focus shifts to the Hudson Valley, as the Renegades will be hosting game two tonight at 7:05 pm, at Dutchess Stadium. Donnelly announced last night that the starter for Brooklyn will be 6’3″ right-hander Luis Mateo, who pretty much shared the unofficial title of “ace” for the Cyclone pitching staff this year. Donnelly hopes this Robles/Mateo combo will act as an efficient knock-out punch to the Renegades play-off hopes with a victory in game two. I will be at the game tonight for more onsite coverage, and the kind of stuff you can’t find about the Mets minors anywhere else. Only on MMO. Let’s go Clones!