BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was Italian Heritage Night Friday at MCU Park in Coney Island, so that was the perfect setting for a big night from Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.
The 21-year-old Oregon State University product finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and he added a stellar defensive play in foul territory and an outfield assist – his second in two nights.
However, Conforto’s effort was not enough, as the Brooklyn Cyclones (19-22) fell by a score of 5-2 to the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The team is now 4-3 since Conforto joined the team July 19.
Conforto has recorded at least one hit in all seven games he’s played in his first week of professional baseball. In this small sample, he’s hitting .407 (11-for-27) with four doubles and three RBI.
“He (Conforto) take’s a lot of pride in his game, and his at-bats have just been terrific right from day one,” said Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa. “The rest of the guys can learn from him in BP and in his pitch selection in the games.”
The first-rounder singled sharply up the middle in his first at-bat and then followed that up with a two-out RBI double into the right field corner in the bottom of third inning to plate the Cyclones’ first run.
He later hit two balls hard to the left side, which went for outs, but he said he feels comfortable hitting the ball to all fields.
“I’m very comfortable,” Conforto said of his offensive production in his first week. “I think I’ve just kind of settled into a mode where I’m seeing the ball well and getting into a rhythm and getting confident. I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit, a lot of fastballs, and I’m doing what I can with them in trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched.”
Conforto’s defense has also impressed early on in his tenure in Brooklyn, especially his throwing.
“It’s one of those things that I’ve worked on, trying to get my arm in shape and making sure that when I was back home I wasn’t losing any arm strength,” Conforto said. “It (his defense) was something that was out there as a question mark, and I took that as a challenge personally. I’ve made it a priority to work on that part of my game.”
“The reports on him (Conforto) were adequate defensively, and we’re seeing way beyond that,” Gamboa said. “For a 21-year-old, he’s miles ahead of most guys I see come into professional baseball. That was his reputation coming here. That’s what we were told, except that he runs, throws and fields better than people gave him credit for. The focus was on his bat, but everybody is seeing a more complete player here.”
Righty Octavio Acosta started on the mound for the Cyclones and was able to pitch out of a few early jams up until the top of the fifth inning, in which eight Lake Monsters came to bat to plate three runs.
Acosta had gone at least 6.0 innings in each of his five starts since his 4.2-inning outing on Opening Day. But he only lasted five innings in this one and surrendered a season-high 10 hits. He falls to 3-2 on the summer with the loss.
The Cyclones only mustered seven hits on the night. One of those was a seeing-eye double over the third-base bag for third baseman Jhoan Ureña, which increases his hitting streak to 11 games. The 19-year-old had a 13-game hitting streak earlier this summer, and he joins Angel Pagan (2001) as the only two players in Cyclones’ franchise history to record two 10-game hitting streaks in the same season.
Although the team has cooled off since its hot start, it’s still very much alive in the Wild Card race with the season just beyond the halfway point. Brooklyn came into play at only 2.0 games behind the Staten Island Yankees and Williamsport Crosscutters in the race for the final playoff spot.
The team is back in action at home Saturday night, looking for a series win against the Lake Monsters. Texas native Corey Oswalt bids for his fourth win of the summer at 6 p.m.
Click here to view the complete box score from this game.