It really should have been Johan Santana dangling left arm night based on his injury history with the Mets, but instead Wednesday night at MCU Park in Coney Island was Johan Santana bobblehead night.
And the Brooklyn Cyclones did not disappoint, as the team scratched out a 2-1 victory over the Staten Island Yankees in 10 innings to improve to 6-11 on the year.
Brooklyn had lost four straight games and seven of their last eight before Wednesday night’s win. But it seems every game features either a rain delay or extra innings – or in this case both. Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly said he hasn’t seen anything like this in all his years in baseball.
“I think we’ve only had one clean game where it’s just a nice game,” Donnelly said. “You win or lose, and you go home. We’re the night raiders. I haven’t seen David Letterman in two weeks.”
After enduring an 11-minute rain delay in the first inning, Cyclones’ lefty starter Carlos Valdez settled in nicely to throw six innings of three-hit ball while surrendering no runs. But his team could not score him a run as he was tagged with a no-decision.
The Cyclones got a bit of scare in the bottom of the first when last year’s Mets’ first-round draft-pick Gavin Cecchini suffered a high ankle sprain sliding into third base. To make matters worse, he was caught stealing on the play to end the inning.
Brooklyn took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning by manufacturing the game’s first run. Cecchini’s replacement Juan Gamboa led off with a bunt single, and L.J. Mazzilli drew a walk. Yankee’s pitcher Caleb Smith balked, and Cyclones’ left fielder Jared King followed with a sacrifice fly to center.
But the Yankees struck right back with an unearned run in the top of the seventh off Cyclones’ reliever Akeel Morris to tie the game at one.
The Cyclones started their game-winning rally with one out in the tenth when center fielder Patrick Biondi drew a walk. Gamboa then doubled inside the third-base bag to put the winning run 90-feet away.
The Yankees’ decided to intentionally walk Mazzilli to create a force and instead pitch to first baseman Matt Oberste, who had been 0-for-4 up until that point.
Oberste lined a ball to shallow left field, but given Biondi’s speed, Donnelly had to take a gamble in sending the runner. Donnely said that Biondi is the only runner on his team that he would have sent in that spot.
The throw from Yankees’ left fielder Mikeson Oliberto beat Biondi, but the Cyclones’ speedster was able to make an acrobatic slide around the tag to arrive home safely for the Brooklyn win.
“I saw the catcher go to the right, and he actually got back to the plate as I was sliding, so I popped up and hopped over the tag and was able to do it,” Biondi said.
“I give props to Biondi for being fast and tagging up,” Oberste said. “He did a great job. He made a great slide and luckily the throw was a little bit off.”
The win was Brooklyn’s second walkoff victory in extra innings this year. The team, however, continues to struggle with men in scoring position. After a 1-for-14 performance Tuesday night, the Cyclones were 0-for-6 with men in scoring position in this one, with both runs coming via the sacrifice fly.
It’s tough for a team to practice improving in clutch situations, as this is mostly determined by the players’ mental approach.
“It’s very hard to simulate anything in practice in baseball because the pitcher’s not out there,” Donnelly said. “In basketball, you can have a full-length scrimmage. In football, you can have a scrimmage, and it’s real. In baseball, you can simulate all day and all night, but the pitcher isn’t throwing 98 miles an hour.”
The Cyclones head down to Aberdeen, Md., for the holiday weekend to take on the Ironbirds in a three-game series. They’ll return home Sunday to host the Lowell Spinners.
Click here to view the complete box score of this game.