After suffering a 3-2 defeat in a 20-inning marathon against the Staten Island Yankees on opening night, the Cyclones then traveled from their Coney Island home to Richmond County and were the recipient of some more stellar Yankee pitching.
That Saturday, the Yankees forced the Cyclones to go 0-2 after putting together a no-hitter which spanned 10 innings, and ultimately winning 2-1.
In 30 innings of baseball against the Yankees, the Cyclones only recorded seven hits. However, their pitching has provided encouraging results, only allowing five earned runs during the 30 innings of work. This all comes on the heels of a season in which the Cyclones hit a New York-Penn League low .220 in 2015.
“The ironic thing is that this reflects last year all over again,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said after their 20-inning loss. “Great pitching, we ran eight pitchers out there [the first game] that really did a great job, and our offense was somewhere between hopeless and inept.”
On Sunday, the Cyclones returned home and escaped with a 2-1 victory, their first of the season, over the Tri-City Valleycats. Although the team only produced five base hits for the duration of the game, their pitching was exceptional, led by Dominican born starter Merandy Gonzalez.
In his first start of the season, Gonzalez allowed only three hits in five and one-third innings of shutout baseball. Third baseman Jay Jabs, who saw his first action of the season on Sunday, went 1-for-3 from the plate, including a two-RBI single to punch in both Cyclone runs.
“I felt like I was going to do something today and came through,” Jabs said after Sunday’s win. “I am feeling good and I hope that it stays. I hope this is a sign that this is how it starts, and it’s going to end like this too.”
Although the Brooklyn-based, Mets-affiliated Single A ball squad had their offensive struggles, Gamboa did note that the team put forth a strong effort out in the field, which essentially kept the Cyclones within striking distance throughout the long night.
Gamboa also highlighted the efforts of 20-year old pitcher Gabriel Llanes, who was given the opportunity to serve as the team’s opening-day starter.
“From the first inning, it was the best that he’s thrown. He did not have a good outing the whole two months we were in Florida, not one,” Gamboa said of Llanes, who had allowed six hits and two earned runs in five innings of quality pitching. “Walks have never been his problem, his problem is poor location within the strike zone, pitching up instead of down, but he did a great job.
“The couple of times he got in trouble he made real good pitches to get out of it, he showed poise and command out there,” Gamboa added.
Gamboa also discussed a couple of players worth keeping your eye on throughout their time in Brooklyn, starting with 19-year-old catcher Ali Sanchez.
“For a youngster he is really sharp and we felt like he did a real good job at calling the game, handling the pitches and taking advantage at what the pitchers have,” he said. “It’s going to be fun watching him play, the Mets are very high on him and he’ll obviously be our number one catcher here.”
Darryl Knight, who is 23 years old and spent last season with the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League, was another player Gamboa highlighted after the first game of the season.
“Darryl Knight is a catcher that we converted literally within the last week to ten days of extended spring,” he said. “When the Mets made a decision that Sanchez was going to come here along with [Brandon] Brosher, we thought more of Knight than just a third catcher. He swung the bat real good down in Florida, and I thought he played really really good at first base.
“Eventually we’re going to get [Peter] Alonso who was our third pick, he’s in the College World Series right now. We’re not giving up on him [Darryl] as a catcher, he’s still going to catch his bullpens and you’ll see him back there occasionally, but with the make-up of this team, the best chance he’s got to get some at bats is at first base and at the DH spots,” Gamboa added.
Last season, the Cyclones finished last in the McNamara Division with a record of 33-43, their lowest mark in franchise history. After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, they’re looking to re-establish themselves among the best teams in the NYPL.
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.