It took 13 innings Sunday evening, but the Brooklyn Cyclones moved back to the .500 mark (3-3) with a 4-3 victory over the previously undefeated Hudson Valley Renegades, the short season Class-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cyclones’ right fielder James Roche delivered the deciding two-out RBI walkoff single to left center in the bottom of the 13th to give Brooklyn the win.
The victory comes a day after the Cyclones rallied from down four runs in the ninth inning on Saturday to the Aberdeen Ironbirds, only to lose the game 5-4 in extra innings.
The whole contest was a wild affair at MCU Park in Coney Island. The game was supposed to start at 5 p.m. but was delayed an hour since the Renegades’ team bus broke down on the way to the park.
Though always windy at the stadium, the weather was great for baseball until the tenth inning, when the skies opened up. The fans that remained in the ballpark were treated to excellent relief pitching by the Cyclones’ bullpen and Roche’s late-game heroics.
But overall, the Cyclones didn’t exactly play their best game of baseball, making a few costly mental and base running mistakes, which extended the game.
“I’m happy with the win; I’m happy with the comeback, but I’m not happy overall with the way we played,” Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly said. “The effort was there. We just weren’t very smart sometimes.”
Dominican lefty Dario Alvarez made his first start for the Cyclones and his first in affiliated ball since 2009. His older brother passed away the night before, but he told his manager that he still wanted to make the start.
“He (Alvarez) showed the heart of a champion by doing it,” Donnelly said.
Alvarez lasted 4.1 innings, surrendering only a first-inning RBI single off the bat of Renegades’ designated hitter Oscar Hernandez.
The Cyclones tied it up in the bottom of the third on an RBI single to right field by shortstop Gavin Cecchini off Renegades’ starter Chris Kirsch. After a slow start, Cecchini is now seven for his last 17 and has three consecutive multi-hit games.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cyclones had first and second with nobody out in an ideal bunt situation. Center fielder and leadoff man Patrick Biondi – who is supposed to be a good bunter – popped up the bunt attempt for an out, changing the whole complexion of the inning. The runner on second – catcher Tomas Nido – made an even worse play when he was thrown out trying to steal third base with two outs.
“These kids are young, and they’re going to make mistakes,” Donnelly said. “You expect them after they’re taught to not repeat them (mistakes). So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Naturally, Hudson Valley immediately took advantage of those mistakes, with three straight doubles off Cyclones’ reliever Dawrin Frias in the top of the sixth to go up 3-1.
After three straight innings of getting the leadoff man on base and failing to score, the Cyclones plated a run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single to center by left fielder Jared King, scoring Cecchini who had doubled to start the inning.
Roche began the game-tying rally in the bottom of the ninth with a single followed by a successful sacrifice bunt by Nido after two failed attempts. Biondi came up with another clutch hit – a single to right field – to send the game to extra innings.
“I think anybody that plays the game wants to be up in those situations,” Biondi said. “I just had another opportunity to get a big hit and tie the game up.”
Cyclones’ lefty relievers David Wynn and John Mincone – who picked up the win – combined to retire 15 consecutive batters from the ninth through 13th innings to keep Brooklyn in the game. Mincone struck out five of the six batters he faced. In 25 innings this season, Cyclones’ relievers have allowed only three runs and have struck out 38 opposing hitters.
After another poorly executed bunt and a few more base running blunders, the Cyclones’ mounted a rally in the bottom of the 13th. With two outs and runners on first and second, Roche – who had earlier bunted into a double play – redeemed himself with a line shot to left center that was just out of the diving reach of Renegades’ left fielder Granden Goetzman.
“I tried not to get upset and stayed within myself,” Roche said about his double-play bunt. “I was hoping that I was going to get another opportunity, and fortunately I was able to get that hit at the end.”
“The guys grinded it out,” Donnelly said. “It was a tough game. We did everything possible to lose the game.”
The Cyclones open a five-game road trip Monday evening against these same Hudson Valley Renegades at 7:05 p.m.
Stay tuned for an upcoming feature story on L.J. and Lee Mazzilli
Click here to view the complete box score from this game.