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Nimmo homers, flirts with cycle
No. 5 Mets prospect says long ball might help him bust slump
08/06/2013 12:29 AM ET
Brandon Nimmo homered for the first time since April 15.
Brandon Nimmo homered for the first time since April 15. (Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

Savannah center fielder Brandon Nimmo flirted with hitting for the cycle Monday night, but he was more pleased with the things that will never show up in any box score.

The Mets' No. 5 prospect found his mechanics at the plate, and with it, earned a boost in confidence and a renewed sense of faith in himself.

Nimmo went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a double and starting pitcher Luis Cessa struck out a career-high 12 batters over eight four-hit innings as the Class A Sand Gnats blanked the Charleston RiverDogs, 6-0.

"It was a good day and I'll try to enjoy it," said Nimmo, who fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle for the second time in as many seasons. "I'm glad I got to cap it off with a home run that helped us win the game. I'll try to let it soak in and enjoy it because nights like these don't come around too often."

Batting second, Nimmo doubled to center field in the first inning and singled back up the middle to load the bases in the third. After grounding out in the fifth, Nimmo slugged a two-run homer to right field in the eighth. It was his second long ball of the year and his 10th in pro ball.

It was the Wyoming native's first homer in three-and-a-half months, a span of 69 games and 263 at-bats since he went yard off Greensboro's Scott Lyman on April 15, 11 games into the season.

"I got up to the plate with a runner on second base in a 1-0 game in the bottom of the eighth inning," Nimmo said. " [Jose Campos] threw me a curveball low and in the dirt for a ball and [Dimas Ponce] moved over to third. They pulled the infield in, so I was just looking to stay up the middle of the field or get it in the air.

"I got a fastball middle-low and I put a good swing on it. It clicked pretty well and got out of the park. It's tough to conquer right field at Grayson Stadium."

The offense proved enough for 21-year-old Cessa to pick up his third win in four starts and improve to 7-3 overall. The native of Mexico threw 95 pitches -- five more than his scheduled limit -- and lowered his ERA to 3.12.

"I felt good and I've been working hard since my last two outings because I had a lot of control problems," Cessa said through teammate Nelfi Zapata.

"I was throwing to the hitters and trying to get them to feel uncomfortable. I was throwing fastballs inside for setup pitches, then curveballs outside. With two strikes, I pretty much threw fastballs. I had a lot of strikeouts with fastballs and that helped me out with getting them to chase sliders."

Cessa allowed five runs on 13 hits over five innings in Delmarva on July 23 and he yielded five more runs -- three earned -- on nine hits over seven frames last time out in Asheville on July 30.

"I have been working with pitching coach Frank Viola to get better and today was a good example of that. I went after it and it was a good day," Cessa said.

"The last two outings I was trying to do to much and I was flying open with my front shoulder. I was working in the bullpen on staying back and letting everything go forward and not try to do too much. That is what I did today."

The right-hander, signed by the Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, praised the way his offense kept fighting in the late innings to give the pitching staff a little extra breathing room.

"That [home run] was sweet for him," Cessa said of Nimmo's roundtripper that gave the Sand Gnats a 3-0 advantage. "From the first inning to the seventh inning, it was 1-0, so that felt great. That woke up the offense, got the team on a roll and gave everybody confidence."

For first-rounder Nimmo, who went 4-for-6 and missed hitting for the cycle by a triple last July 29 for the short-season Brooklyn Cyclones, it was the pitching that kept the team in the game and held onto the narrow one-run lead.

"Every time [Cessa] picks up the ball, we know great things can happen and that we have a chance to win a ballgame," said Nimmo, the top-ranked outfielder in the Mets' system. "He had hitters off balance and he was very deliberate with his fastball. Sometimes guys will throw it and still work around guys, but Cessa was coming after people and he had that dominant look on the mound.

"His changeup was good and he was spotting up his curveball. Then in tough situations, he really bore down and got the outs when he needed to."

Just as important for Nimmo was that he felt more confident at the plate after a slight slump over the past couple weeks.

After hitting .322 in 23 games in April, the 20-year-old batted .188 in four games in May when he suffered a bruised left hand, .250 in 25 June starts and .212 in 24 appearances in July. He was 6-for-32 (.188) in his past 10 games.

"It's just confidence and slumps can happen," said Nimmo, who called the elusive three-bagger his "arch nemesis." "Sometimes when you're in a slump, you say things are not good and then you start to doubt yourself. You just have to hone in a little bit and do the best you can.

"I tried to shorten up my stride a little bit and make things more simple. The more I can do that, the better I do. Today, things just clicked well. It doesn't necessarily mean I've found a cure and I can't take too much from it. Sometimes all it takes is a long ball to break out of a slump and make things a little more simple at the plate."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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