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Mateo sparkles in Cyclones' victory

Mets prospect strikes out eight, hurls seven one-hit innings
July 14, 2012
The difference between Luis Mateo and a cyclone is that Mateo is better when he's down.

The Mets prospect struck out eight and gave up one hit over seven shutout innings Saturday night as short-season Brooklyn held on for a 6-3 victory over State College.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent in May 2011, Mateo (4-1) did not allow a hit until Samuel Gonzalez singled with one out in the fifth. Gonzalez was the Spikes' last baserunner against him as he struck out six of his final eight batters.

"Luis gets off to a slow start, usually, especially with his slider," Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly said. "As the game progressed, he got real command of it. He had command of his fastball all night, pounded the strike zone. The last game, he was up with everything and he was real determined to come out and get low in the strike zone.

"I don't even know what [speed] he threw; I'll put it this way -- he was hard enough. I don't know what he was, but he was throwing it by guys and tying guys up inside all night with it. He had a real outstanding performance."

Mateo, who walked one batter and hit another, lowered his ERA to 1.47. He leads the New York-Penn League in wins and strikeouts (38), ranks eighth in ERA and has not given up a run in three of his five starts.

Mateo's road to the Mets was a long and circuitous one. After signing with the Giants in July 2008, he had his contract voided after the club found something it didn't like during his medical examination. The native of the Dominican Republic was suspended by Major League Baseball following a snafu involving his birth certificate that listed him as being two years younger.

Mateo spent last season in the Dominican Summer League, where he was 6-1 with a 2.00 ERA. Donnelly got his first look at him before the season started.

"All I know is I walked into Spring Training one day and someone said, 'Wait until you see this guy.' And they were right. He was nasty from the get go," Donnelly said. "He's a good kid, he'll be out here tomorrow running before everyone is dressed. He's prepared, when he goes out there, he's prepared. It's great. He has the best stuff out of anybody we have."

Brandon Nimmo, one of the Mets' two first-round picks in 2011, went 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored for Brooklyn. The Mets' No. 4 prospect has five hits in his last two games, something Donnelly attributed to the work he and his staff has done with 19-year-old outfielder.

"He's getting these hits on early counts, and that's what we're trying to get him to do -- be aggressive," Donnelly said. "Tonight he was more aggressive early in the count and it paid off. When you see him hit a ball like he did tonight, you see what they saw when they were looking at him [before the Draft].

"It's a grind for him. He's a young kid playing in this league of mainly college kids. It's a pleasure to watch him. You can see from the first day he walked into Spring Training, from March to now, we all talk about how much he's improved as a player. He's been thrown into a tough league and he's handling it fine."

Dimas Ponce drove in a pair of runs and Eudy Pina scored twice for Brooklyn.

Tyler Vanderheiden allowed a hit and fanned the only batter he faced to record his fifth save.

Spikes starter Clay Holmes yielded one hit over five shutout innings but did not figure in the decision.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to