Talented Trio of Hurlers Keeping Cyclones Alive

In many ways, the second season of Brooklyn Cyclones baseball has been radically different from the first. Virtually impossible to beat at home last season, the Cyclones have blown several leads in the late innings at KeySpan, including Thursday's 6-5 defeat to Lowell. In that game, Brooklyn had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, only to lose another game in the standings.

Monday began a crucial stretch for the Cyclones — the final two games of a three-game set with the Williamsport Crosscutters, followed by three games against the McNamara division-leading Staten Island Yankees.

To get back to the playoffs, the ‘Clones will have to pitch the way they did this past weekend.

For much of this year, with the exception of a few standout performances, the Brooklyn pitching staff has been ordinary. The bullpen especially has been weak, as the KeySpan faithful had gotten used to last year's trio of David Byard, Blake McGinley and Matt Gahan shutting down opposing teams in the late innings.

"We really haven't had a ‘closer' this season," Cyclones manager Howard Johnson said. "Certain guys have had some success, but I think that's the one place we're lacking."

Injuries haven't helped Johnson's quest for a reliable relief corps either, and the strict pitch counts — which lead to groupings of pitchers that are scheduled to throw on a given day — are player development obstacles that cannot be ignored at this level of minor league baseball.

The postseason is still a reachable goal, and with 12 games remaining in the regular season, the starters are trying to do their part to pick up their beleaguered bullpen mates.

The pitching primer by the Cyclones rotation began Friday night, as Miguel Pinango attempted to become the first Cyclone to toss a no-hitter.

‘Clone Comes Close To No-No.


Though the dream of the club's first no-hitter in history died with two out in the bottom of the ninth when Lowell's Eric West singled, Pinango got the final out on the next pitch for the first nine-inning complete game in Cyclones' history.

As the final batter popped out to end the Cyclones' 4-0 win, the Brooklyn right-hander hopped on the mound, perhaps in frustration, perhaps in celebration of the best-pitched game of his career.

His teammates burst out of the dugout, embracing the pitcher, whose hard-luck season has made him a KeySpan favorite.

Pinango has been the victim of bad luck and worse run support all season long, and his 2-5 won-loss mark is hardly indicative of the brilliance that he's shown on the mound this year.

Somebody Can Beat the Kaz


The expectations for any first round pick are high, but the excitement surrounding Brooklyn's Scott Kazmir are bordering on the ridiculous.

As a senior at Cypress Falls High School in Houston, Kazmir was 11-2 with a 0.37 earned run average, numbers that got him selected in this year's first round of the baseball amateur draft in June.

On Saturday, the left-hander, generously listed at 6-feet, made his home debut in front of the KeySpan crowd.

"I guess you say I'm going to be a little nervous," Kazmir said before his home debut. "But that's just because it's the first time in my home ballpark."

Well, the jitters were there for the southpaw, as he walked the first batter he faced, and that lapse of control was costly, as he then allowed a run-scoring triple on the next pitch. That runner scored on a passed ball two pitches later.

Though the 18-year-old settled down to retire the next 12 batters, the Cyclones couldn't come all the way back, and lost 4-3. Despite his sloppy first inning, he did strike out eight hitters over four innings, bringing his to-date totals to 0-1 with a 0.90 ERA, with 19 strikeouts, three walks and just three hits allowed in 10 innings of work.

Dominant Deaton Stays Perfect


Right-handed power pitcher Kevin Deaton has been Brooklyn's best pitcher all season, and flashed his dominant form again in Sunday's 6-0 win over the Williamsport Crosscutters.

The right-hander from Merritt Island, Florida (7-0, 2.51 ERA) has won seven straight games, and was especially effective on Sunday, throwing seven shutout innings.

He retired the first 14 batters he faced, and added to his NYPL-best strikeout lead with five more K's, giving him 83.

In his first two pro seasons, Deaton was used primarily as a closer, but has blossomed as a starter this year. While some players are intimidated by the raucous KeySpan crowd, Deaton feeds off it.

"There are 8,000 people there every night cheering for you," Deaton said. "They don't care how much you make, they don't care if they've ever heard of you before. They just want to see baseball."

CYCLONES NOTES


• The Cyclones and Crosscutters — the NYPL's two defending co-champs — have played five games in Williamsport, and now play four more games in Brooklyn over the next two weeks. The Cyclones are 4-2 against the Cutters, having outscored them 28-16.

•The Cyclones are 20-9 over their last 29 games. Brooklyn was 8-5 in June, with a .238 average, and a 3.19 ERA. In July, they were 12-15, with a .358 average and a 3.60 ERA. In August, they are currently 17-8 with a .281 average and a 3.02 ERA. The team has hit 6, 17, and 26 home runs in the respective months.

Reprinted with permission of Brooklyn Skyline. This article was published on 8/27/02.



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