Brooklyn clings to wild card lead by beating hated Staten Island Yankees

Plunk party! Clones hit three Ironbirds in poor showing

Cyclones 3
Staten Island Yankees 2

Sept. 1 at MCU Park

A strong showing by Cyclones starter Julian Hilario and a save by closer John Mincone — along with a little help from the Mini-Mets offense — propelled the team past the loathed Staten Island Yankees in a key, late-season win.

Hilario blanked the Yanks for six innings, giving up just four hits and walking one, while striking out seven batters.

The Clones took an early lead and made it stick after center fielder Brandon Nimmo crushed a solo homer to center in the third. The team tacked another run on the board in the sixth, as first baseman Jayce Boyd and designated hitter Kevin Plawecki both hit singles off Staten Island reliever Alex Smith. Third baseman Jeff Reynolds grounded into a force out, but Smith surrendered a single to catcher Jeffrey Glenn to load the bases — then threw a wild pitch to let one run score.

The mini-Mets plated their third and final run of the game in the top of the seventh, after right fielder Maikis De La Cruz hit a line drive double, then scored on an RBI single off the bat of shortstop Phillip Evans.

But the Baby Bombers didn’t go down without a fight. In the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Gregory Bird and third baseman Matthew Duran hit back-to-back doubles off Coney reliever Matt Koch, prompting Cyclones skipper Rich Donnelly to pull him for Tyler Vanderheiden. But the usually dominant righty from Mississippi struggled, giving up an RBI single to left fielder Danny Lopez with just one away — then letting right fielder Danny Oh drop one into left field to drive in Duran. That’s when Donnelly yanked Vanderheiden for Mincone, who fanned designated hitter Taylor Dugas and forced shortstop Claudio Custodio to pop out to pick up his sixth save of the season.

With the victory, the Clones remain one game ahead in the NY–Penn League wild card race over the Batavia Muckdogs, who have won their last eight games and trail the Auburn Doubledays by just one game in the race for the Pinckney Division crown. The McNamara division-leading Hudson Valley Renegades clinched a playoff spot with a shutout win over the Aberdeen IronBird — meaning the wild card berth is Brooklyn’s only chance at the post-season.

The Cyclones are home again at MCU Park [1904 Surf Ave. at W. 17th Street in Coney Island, (718) 449–8497, www.brooklyncyclones.com] today at 5 pm as they take on the hated Staten Island Yankees.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.