Six and counting . . .
Since the International League went to its present scheduling format, no team has swept a season series against Buffalo. And the Bisons haven’t broomed an opponent either.
Don’t look now, but the Durham Bulls are three-quarters of the way to an 8-0 sweep of the Herd after Sunday afternoon’s 12-6 rout at Coca-Cola Field. Manager Charlie Montoyo’s Bulls are 6-0 against Buffalo this season and have a 59-35 advantage in runs.
Buffalo’s best record against nondivision opponents, whom they face eight times a season, is 7-1 against Louisville in 2005 and twice against Norfolk (2003 and ’05). No opponent has won a series 7-1 against the Herd — yet.
The Bulls go for seven in a row at 7:05 tonight before the teams complete their season series with a 6:05 start Tuesday night.
You couldn’t ask for a better start than the one the Bisons got Sunday. Hustle by Fred Lewis helped the Herd to a second inning run and starting pitcher Jeurys Familia needed only 23 pitches to get through the first two innings. He retired the first seven Bulls — one on a diving catch in left by Lewis that took a double from Henry Wrigley of the Bulls in the second inning.
Then, Familia lost familiarity with the strike zone. Two walks and a hit batsmen set up a four-run inning for the Bulls and Durham took it from there, scoring three more in the fourth and five in the fifth as Buffalo gave up 10 or more runs to Durham for the third straight game and for the fourth time in the last five meetings.
More troubling than the Bulls’ dominance over the Herd is Familia’s continued problems, especially after a good start. His record fell to 5-5 with a 5.28 earned-run average.
“He basically lost total command of all of his stuff,” said Bisons manager Wally Backman, who is perplexed by Familia’s inability to settle into any consistency.
He’s failed to get to the fifth inning in seven of his 17 starts for the Herd.
“Why. I can’t tell you why,” Backman said. “It’s frustrating for us as coaches to watch when that stuff happens when a guy has that kind of stuff.
“Did he get a little timid in the strike zone? It looks that way. It’s not an easy game. You’ve got to be able to back yourself up, regroup and start all over again. It’s the same thing for a hitter.”
Backman would prefer to have Familia get straightened out in Buffalo, but was realistic about the possibility that the Mets would send him to a lower classification to work through his problems.
“I look at it as trying to work it out here,” Backman said. “I feel like I failed to some extent.
“Is it Familia getting sent to Double-A or Single-A a possibility? It probably is a possibility. You can only take so many lumps before a guy loses some focus.”
Every spot in the Buffalo batting order had at least one hit as the Herd (15) more than matched Durham’s 12 hits. Buffalo had three extra-base hits to the Bulls’ one. That included Josh Satin’s seventh homer, a towering drive down the line in left that cleared the netting behind the outfield wall.
Buffalo had base runners, but the size of the deficit, 12-2 after 4˝ innings, limited Backman.
Durham had only one extra-base hit, a double by Wrigley. The Bulls got hits from eight of the nine spots in their batting order. Only left fielder Leslie Anderson went hitless.
Lefty Garrett Olson (3-4, 4.74) is scheduled to get tonight’s start for the Bisons against a Bulls starter to be named. Durham’s scheduled starter for Sunday’s game, Chris Archer, was called up by Tampa Bay. That moved Matt Torra, a former University of Massachusetts right-hander, into Sunday’s slot and left tonight’s starter up in the air.
Lance Pendleton (4-2, 3.27) is listed as Durham’s starter in the season finale Tuesday night against Collin McHugh (0-2, 7.07).