Cyclones outfielder Brandon McIllwain climbed the minor league ladder last week to the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Berkeley grad left Brooklyn with a team-leading .298 average.
In Binghamton, McIllwain joins last season’s top three Cyclones prospects: catcher Francisco Alvarez, third baseman Brett Baty and shortstop Ronny Mauricio.
Bringing up “B Mac” paid off right away. Starting in right field, he went 2-for-4 in his debut and hit his first home run in his second game on the road against Bowie. Returning home, he had a walk-off hit to beat Reading 5-4 in extra innings.
“It’s a well-deserved promotion for him,” said Cyclones hitting coach Richie Benes. “Besides doing it with his bat, they’ve already moved him over to centerfield since he also has such a good glove.”
After seven games with Binghamton, McIllwain was hitting .393 with 11 hits, three doubles, a home run and eight runs scored.
“So far, playing for Binghamton has been awesome,” McIllwain said. “It’s a great stadium, great fans and a really fun team to play with.”
McIllwain also got to play alongside rehabbing N.Y. Mets pitcher and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Pitching for the first time since mid-May, Scherzer struck out six Reading batters but also gave up two runs on three hits before leaving in the fourth inning of a 7-6 Binghamton loss.
“Playing with Scherzer was such a cool experience,” McIllwain said. “He’s one of the greatest at what he does and it was impactful for me to see the way he carries himself and goes about the game.”
Back in Brooklyn, the Cyclones started the second half of the season on a positive note.
Before last Friday’s game against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, bench coach Chris Newell predicted, “You just watch. After tonight’s game we’re going to be 1-0 to start the second half.”
Newell’s prediction came true when Brooklyn beat Jersey Shore 2-1 on Jose Mena’s home run and five shutout innings from lefty Nick Zwack, who gave up four hits and a walk and had six strikeouts.
To make this season more competitive, MiLB divided it into two halves. The recently reconfigured High-A South Atlantic League’s two divisions will have four playoff winners. Playing in the North Division creates an opportunity for Brooklyn to make a second-half playoff run and take on first-half winner Aberdeen.
The Cyclones won five out of six games and four straight to finish their homestand against the BlueClaws. They appeared reenergized as they hit the road to play the Hudson Valley Renegades.