Tyler Vanderheiden Gives Mates a Ninth Inning Scare.
Brooks Hold On For Win In Series Opener Versus Aberdeen.
Nine Games Left In Regular Season; Lead Wild Card By 2.5 Games
The countdown has begun. Heading into Monday, ten games remained in the regular season. And due to inconsistent play of late, Brooklyn's hold on the Wild Card has been slipping. The Cyclones once led the Wild Card by as many as seven games. Entering Monday's action, their lead had dwindled down to two.
This week's schedule called for a road trip to Maryland. And so, the Surf Avenue Sluggers were in Aberdeen tonight. To open the series, Brooklyn's ace, Rainy Lara, was opposed by Iron Bird's starter, Lex Rutledge.
Through the first two innings, all remained quiet. Then in the third, Brooklyn struck for the game's first run against Rutledge. Cyclones second baseman, Richie Rodriguez, led off the inning with a single, then came around and scored when Dimas Ponce grounded into a fielder's choice. Pitcher Lex Rutledge was removed after just three innings however. Aside from the one run allowed, Aberdeen's starter only walked one batter and struck out four.
In the sixth inning, Brooklyn scored again, this time off Jamie Esquivel, who pitched four innings in relief of Lex Rutledge. Jayce Boyd connected on his third home run of the season to give the Cyclones a 2-0 lead.
Rainy Lara completed six full innings of shutout ball and left on the winning side. He allowed three scattered hits, walked one, and struck out four batters. Matthew Koch was first out of the bullpen, and pitched himself into some trouble over 1.2 innings. After surrendering a double in the eighth, Coach Donnelly turned to David Wynn, who finished out the frame, and kept the game scoreless.
Then, into the ninth inning they went. In the top half, Brooklyn failed to secure an insurance run against Aberdeen's third pitcher of the evening, Jose Nivar. For the bottom of the ninth, Coach Donnelly put the ball in Tyler Vanderheiden's hand. After retiring the first two batters he faced, it looked like a good move too. Then Coach Donnelly's closer suffered an acute bout of the yips. With two outs mind you..., a double, a hit by pitch, a single, and an E-7 later, the Iron Birds were halfway to achieving a tie with that runner on third. But Tyler Vanderheiden regrouped, and struck out Aberdeen's Chase Weems swinging for out number three.
Tyler Vanderheiden was credited with his tenth save of the season. But Monday night's true king of the hill was Brooklyn's starting pitcher. Rainy Lara earned his eighth win of the season, which ties him for the New York Penn League lead. His 0.97 WHiP ranks seventh in the circuit. In sixty-one innings pitched this season, he has limited batters to forty-nine hits, while issuing a mere ten walks. His sixty-nine strikeouts rank second in the League behind his teammate Luis Mateo.
The Cyclones were actually limited to four hits. Equally lacking, Brooklyn batted one for six with runners in scoring position. Aberdeen doubled Brooklyn's output with eight hits. But Brooklyn's strength; their pitching; have often made two runs stand up before. And moving forward, they will most likely need to continue that trend.
The Cyclones have also received little in the way of out of town help over the last ten games or so. Finally, Mother Nature found favor with the Baby Bums Monday night, and Brooklyn's neighbor and rival, the Staten Island Yankees, even provided their fellow New Yorker with an assist as well.
In the Ball Park at St. George, the Bombers hosted, then tossed the Hudson Valley Renegades into the drink. The Yankees 8-2 win over the Renegades allowed Brooklyn to gain one game on the McNamara Division leaders. But with nine games now left in the season, the Brooks are still six games back of first. Stranger things have happened though. No?
In the more pressing Wild Card race, Monday night's game in Ohio between the Batavia Muckdogs versus the Mahoning Vally Scrappers was rained-out. So for now, Brooklyn's win allowed them to creep away from Batavia by a half game, at least for a night. Coney Island's lead over the Muckdogs is now 2.5 games. A double header most likely awaits the Muckdogs and Scrappers on Tuesday.