The problem as Marty Brown sees it is that his team needs to have a better plan, and stick with the plan.
The Buffalo Bisons certainly need something better to happen from its starting pitchers. The Herd’s rotation has been inconsistent as its earned-run average has blown up in May.
Saturday night, it was Claudio Vargas who struggled, giving up six earned runs in three innings during an 11-6 loss to the Charlotte Knights in front of 7,486 at Coca-Cola Field.
That brings the Bisons starters’ ERA to a horrendous 7.88 for the month and 5.85 for the season. It was the fourth time in the last seven games Buffalo has given up double-digit runs.
The damage came in the third inning when Vargas allowed six runs as the Knights took a 7-1 lead. Back to back singles led off the inning, and a deeply hit ball to centerfield by Carlos Sanchez scored a run that broke the tie. The Knights added runs on an RBI double from Jordan Danks, a ground out by Lars Anderson, an RBI single from Angel Sanchez and a two-run home run by Bryan Anderson.
“Tonight, the second time through in that third inning he got some balls up over the plate and pitched a little bit more behind in the count than he has,” Brown said. “I think maybe he’s got to regroup and figure out what he needs to do to get that command back that he had four or five starts before that.”
Brown noted that starters Justin Germano and Dave Bush have pitched well in spots and that Vargas started the season well. He also noted that they’ve gotten some solid performances from the bullpen.
“I look at Germano and last time out he pitched well. And then Bush would pitch well and have a couple bad ones,” Brown said. “It’s just some inconsistencies I think. Overall I think our bullpen has done a pretty fair job. … There’s a lot of positives in our bullpen, it’s a matter of our starters going out, having a game plan and following through and being able to understand that they have to stick with that thing. If they don’t have command of that fastball early, they’re going to have to come to it and get command of it.”
The lack of a plan also frustrated Brown offensively. The Herd managed five hits but went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position as the team returned to Buffalo after an eight-game road trip.
“I just don’t think we had a very good plan today,” Brown said. “We didn’t have a lot of focus. Everybody’s a little bit tired from the road trip we had … but our plan wasn’t real great and we all talked about that and I think we’ve got to better at it.”
Part of the Herd’s struggles came against Charlotte starter John Danks.
The 28-year old major leaguer might have made his last rehab start. He gave up only two hits, but one of those came after he walked three straight to score two runs. That two-run single to Luis Jimenez ended Danks’ outing.
Danks has 57 big-league wins for the Chicago White Sox, but had shoulder surgery on Aug. 6 last season and is working through a rehab stint.
On Saturday, he gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits in 4∏ innings with four walks, five strikeouts and two hit batters.
The Herd got one run in the first inning when, with one out, Danks hit Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra. Luis Jimenez grounded to second, but an error on the first baseman allowed Jimenez to reach safely while Gose scored from second, tying the game.
In the fifth, Danks issued three straight walks with one out. Jimenez’s two-run single pulled the Herd within 7-3
The Knights got on the board in the first inning. Gordon Beckham’s hit to left field was a single but he took third on an error by Eugenio Velez after he slipped trying to play the ball. Danks had a soft hit to third and he beat the throw, allowing Beckham to score for a 1-0 Charlotte lead.
In the sixth, Bryan Anderson hit his second two-run homer of the game for a 9-3 lead. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress gave up a bases-loaded walk as the lead ballooned to 10-3.
A solo shot by Velez with two outs in the eighth made it 10-4 and the Herd rallied in the ninth, scoring two runs on a single by Andy LaRoche but Jim Negrych grounded out to end the game.
Negrych went 0 for 2 with a pair of walks and a strikeout. That dropped his batting average to .393 – the first time it has dipped below .400 all season.