Early Cyclone offense dooms Scrappers in 10-5 loss
NILES - Early deficits are hard to recover from. That’s exactly the prospect that the Scrappers faced Sunday, as they fell behind early to the Brooklyn Cyclones. The 5-0 hole after two was too much to overcome, as the Cyclones continued to pile on en route to a 10-5 victory.
It didn’t take long for the Cyclones to start to dig the hole. After their first two batters reached against starter Ryan Merritt, Philip Evans delivered the big blow of the game: a three run homerun to right field. Merritt retired the next two batters, but was removed from the game in the first with a wrist injury. The extent of the injury is unclear.
The unexpected early call to the bullpen didn’t help things, as the Cyclones added another pair of runs in the second off of reliever Josh Martin. The runs came off of a pair of back-to-back blasts from Julio Concepcion and Brandon Nimmo. The three homeruns gave Brooklyn 19 on the season, good enough to vault them into a tie with Jamestown for the league lead.
If the Scrapper offense was going to make an effort to climb back into the game, it would be no easy task. Brooklyn entered the day ranked second in the league in ERA, first in WHIP, first in strikeouts, and third in walks. Taking the mound for the Cyclones was Julian Hilario, a stingy righty who entered carrying a solid 3.60 ERA.
The Scrappers were able to get a couple back on Hilario in the second and third, picking up one in each. In the second, Aaron Siliga led off with a triple, and scored on an Erik Gonzalez groundout. The Scrappers had a prime scoring chance with a man on first and second and only one out, but were unable to do any further damage.
In the third, Tyler Naquin started the action with a leadoff double. Then, after moving to third on a fielder choice, Naquin was singled home by Evan Frazer to make it a 5-2 game after three.
Unfortunately for the Scrappers, Hilario exited after the third and left the game in the hands of a bullpen they couldn’t touch. Beck Wheeler pitched the middle three innings and fanned six Scrappers without allowing a hit.
Meanwhile, the Cyclone offense continued to hit. They threatened in the fourth, when they put their leadoff man aboard after a double that hit just fair and bounced intoright field seats. Then, after two quick outs, Nimmo ripped a single into left that looked sure to score the run from second. Right fielder Andrew Campbell fielded the ball and made a strong throw that beat the runner by plenty and saved arun.
They weren’t so lucky to escape in the fifth, however. With Martin still pitching, The Cyclones were able to load the bases with no outs. Then, a sacrifice fly and base hit from Alexander Sanchez drove in two more. They added another pair in the sixth off of James Stokes, when Nimmo and Evans both had RBI base hits to run the score to 9-2.
Luis Encarnacion pitched a clean seventh, and turned it over to Rafael Homblert in the eighth. He allowed one more run, on a two-out Jayce Boyd RBI single to center. That made it a 10-3 ballgame.
If it weren’t for the seven run disadvantage, the rally the Scrapper offense put together in the bottom half of the eighth might have been a game-changer. It all started with two outs, when Erik Gonzalez poked a single to center. After a wild pitch moved him up, Andrew Campbell singled to drive in the run. Then, Joe Sever walked and Jairo Kelly singled to load the bases for the lately maligned Tyler Naquin.
Naquin has been mired in a slump as of late, batting only .175 in his last 10 games entering Sunday. Something he’s stressed all year, though, is putting together good at-bats in key situations. He was able to do that, poking a one-hopper over third and down the line to score a pair, and make it a 10-5 game.
“I’ve been struggling, anybody can tell,” said Naquin, who finished the day 2-5 with a pair of doubles. “But you’ve got to lose that. You’ve got to put it way down in your heart, and not bring it back up every time you step to the plate. It’s a new beginning. It’s a new chance.”
Maybe most satisfying for Naquin was the opportunity to quell some quiet heckling that has begun to emerge from a few fans about him being a “bust”, as ridiculous as that sounds so early in his young career.
“I want to do my best to keep a level and head and not worry about fans like that,” he said. “We’re all in this together. Whether I’m the first pick or the last pick, it really doesn’t matter.”
Despite the rally, the early five run deficit proved to be too great to recover from, as the Scrappers couldn’t mount anything else in the ninth and lost by that same margin, 10-5. It wasn’t for lack of offense, though, as they did bang out 11 hits, including five of the extra-base variety.
“We got behind early and just couldn’t catch up,” said manager Ted Kubiak after the game. “They battled, I can’t fault them for that. They keep coming at them; I’ve got to give them credit. That’s what they’ve been doing, I don’t think we’ve been blown out of many games.”
Taking the loss in the contest was the starter Merritt. Wheeler picked up the win for Brooklyn. With the loss, the Scrappers are now even with the Cyclones at one a piece in the series. They will look to take the rubber match tomorrow night at 7:05.