Ratliff's Homers and Luck Give Cyclones a Much Needed Win
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Monday, August 18, 2008
BROOKLYN, NY - Five games out of first place with only 18 left to play this season before Sunday's game with the Tri-City Valley Cats, the Brooklyn Cyclones needed a clutch performance to keep their post season chances from slipping away.
Powered by a two dinger night from Sean Ratliff and three costly errors by their opponents, the Baby Bums kept their playoff hopes alive with a 6-5 win over the Valley Cats and go into this week's All-Star game with a renewed sense of purpose.
“They are playing better now,” said Cyclones skipper Edgar Alfonzo. “I hope we continue to play the way we have been. It's not over yet. Anything can happen.”
Things didn't start Brooklyn's way however, as the Valley Cats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first after a Jason Castro two-run homer off Brooklyn starter and NYPL All-Star Chris Schwinden. The Mets Single-A affiliate stormed right back in the bottom half of the inning however, getting four hits and a RBI single and sacrifice fly from Eric Campbell and Jose Jimenez, tying the score at 2-2.
With the score still tied in the bottom of the fourth, Brooklyn got the lead on a Ratliff solo homer and kept it behind stellar pitching from Schwinden. Hurling four scoreless innings after the rocky first, the 22nd round pick looked to be in prime position to earn his fourth win of the season.
Things abruptly fell apart for the 21-year-old in the seventh though, as an error by JR Voyles allowed a run to score to tie the game and a RBI double by Ronald Ramirez put the Valley Cats ahead 4-3.
“I was attacking hitters pretty well,” said Schwinden. “But I was throwing my curve ball too much to some hitters and they capitalized. You can only get away with things for so long.”
With two outs in the seventh, Schwinden was replaced by Yury Santana, who gave up a RBI single from JT Shuck that gave Tri-City a two-run lead with only two and a half innings left to play.
The Mets Single-A affiliate came right back in the game in the bottom half of the seventh again after a solo homer from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Santana kept Tri-City scoreless in the eighth and Roy Merritt pitched a scoreless ninth, giving the offense every opportunity to get back in the game and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Brooklyn did just that in the ninth, as Ratliff homered again, tying the game at 5-5.
“I got some good wood tonight,” said Ratliff. “It feels real good to start hitting balls hard now. Hopefully, it continues.”
After Merritt hurled another scoreless frame in the tenth, the Cyclones offense got cooking again, as Seth Williams lead off the inning with a single, while Jordan Abruzzo reached on an error and advanced to second to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. After a Jimenez strike out, Ike Davis was intentionally walked, loading the bases for Juan Legares.
What looked like an innocent double-play opportunity, after Legares grounded right to Tri-City pitcher Ashton Mowdy, turned into a disaster for Tri-City when Valley Cats backstop Castro threw the possibly inning-ending out into right field, allowing Abruzzo to score, giving Brooklyn a 6-5 win
Still five games out of first place after the victory, the Clones feel confident going into the All-Star break and feel they still have a shot at nabbing a post season birth.
“It was a huge win tonight,” said Ratliff. “It's good to gain ground and to go out on a positive note before we come back to work after the All-Star break.”
Reese Havens groin pull will apparently keep him out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, as Alfonzo had no time table for his return.
“We're trying to be careful with him,” he said. “We don't want him to get hurt again.”