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Spending time in the cellar - Brooklyn goes from first to worst in 2008

A season that began with high hopes has found the Brooklyn Cyclones scuttling in mediocrity, with a 14-18 record as of Monday.

Last year’s New York-Penn League McNamara Division champions are now in last place, six games behind the first-place Staten Island Yankees.

The Cyclones have particularly struggled away from the friendly confines of Keyspan Park. At home, they are a respectable 8-7; on the road, they are 6-11.

For the second straight week, the ‘Clones took a long bus ride to upstate New York and came back to Brooklyn on the wrong end of a three-game sweep.

Last week, it was the Jamestown Jammers, a Florida Marlins affiliate, who swept the Cyclones; this week, after a home victory against State College (Pittsburg), the ‘Clones endured a sweep at the hands of the Oneonta Tigers (Detroit), during a week in which they went 2-4.

While the Cyclones hitting has struggled all year, their pitching has kept them competitive. But during the Oneonta series, the pitching showed signs of breaking under the weight of carrying the team all season.

In the series’ first game on Wednesday, July 16, pitcher Pedro P. Martinez, who had been mostly outstanding in his first five starts, was less than stellar: He surrendered four runs in five innings, putting Brooklyn in a hole it could not recover from in a game they lost, 4-1.

The next night, an uncharacteristically sub-par effort from Jeffrey Kaplan – who gave up four runs in five innings – proved Brooklyn’s undoing in a 5-4 loss.

On Friday, Scott Shaw, who came into the game with a 1.42 ERA, saw his numbers get significantly worse before the first inning was out: he gave up five runs and was pulled after retiring only retiring two batters.

Although they gamely fought back, the Cyclones never recovered from that traumatic first inning, eventually losing the game 7-5.

With the mid-week sweep complete, there was no rest for the weary, depressed Brooklynites. They hopped on a bus for six hours in the middle of the night to prepare for a three-game set against the Staten Island Yankees.

It was the Yankees who the ‘Clones staved off last year en route to their McNamara Division championship. After their strong second half last year, the Yankees have picked up where they left off, storming out to a 20-12 record this year.

To snap the three-game skid on Saturday, Brooklyn turned to Brad Holt, the 33rd overall pick in June’s draft who is third in the NYP League in strikeouts.

Holt was his usual dominant self, striking out seven while surrendering one run in 5.1 innings, lowering his ERA to 1.91.

The ‘Clones held this 4-1 lead into the eighth inning, but the Yankees scratched across a run in the eighth before stepping in against Brooklyn closer Stephen Clyne in the ninth.

A 2007 third round pick out of Clemson, Clyne did a splendid job closing games for Brooklyn last year, recording 8 saves to go along with a 2.05 ERA.

But this year has been a struggle: Clyne was recently demoted to Brooklyn after struggling at “High-A” Port St. Lucie earlier this year.

His rough season continued on Saturday. Clyne surrendered two singles to start the inning, and after recording a ground ball out, Melky Mesa unloaded on his fastball for a shocking three-run homer, sending the ‘Clones to a swift, shocking 5-4 defeat that extended their losing streak to 4.

But give the 2008 Brooklyn Cyclones credit: they are nothing if not resilient. They got off the mat the next day by pounding out 11 hits, cruising to a 7-4 win.

With the better part of the season remaining, their six-game deficit to the Yankees seems steep. But in the Wild Card standings, their 3.5 game hole in the Wild Card standings to the Auburn Doubledays is eminently surmountable.

Indeed, the ‘Clones may have struggled, but they are not beyond the redemption of a simple stretch of good baseball.

To accomplish this, the offense must step up and at least come close to matching the team’s outstanding pitching.

As of the morning of Monday, July 21, the Cyclones are last in the New York-Penn League in runs scored: in 32 games, they have scored 111 runs, averaging 3.5 runs per game.

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