ROCHESTER – The Buffalo Bisons got a long ball (from catcher Josh Thole) and another quality start (from Dave Bush) here Tuesday. It’s been that way most of a scintillating first month as the Toronto Blue Jays’ top affiliate.
But there was a unique quality about the 5-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings in Frontier Field. It was the way the Bisons small-balled their way to three ninth-inning runs to add some insurance to what had been a 2-1 lead.
Thole led off the ninth with a single to top a 4-for-4 day and Lance Zawadski followed with a single. Shortstop Ryan Goins then followed manager Marty Brown’s hints perfectly, showing bunt but then pulling back as the Rochester infield rotated, swinging away to slap a one-hopper up the middle and give Buffalo a 3-1 lead.
“If the defense gives you something and tries to rotate early, just pull it back and try to hit something on the ground,” Goins said in explaining his thought process. “Either way to get him over, bunt or slash, whatever I needed to do, I had to try to get it done.”
Zawadski scored as Goins stole second and Goins scored the Herd’s final run on Anthony Gose’s squeeze bunt.
“That was great,” said Thole, who belted a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Bisons the lead for keeps. “We’ve had doubles and homers to win games and tie games. To show we’ve got that in our bag too plays really nicely.”
“It started at the bottom of our lineup too and that was a big thing,” Brown said. “We just make things happen. We’ve got the guys to do that too. The middle of the order is really stout and at the top and bottom we’ve got guys who can manufacture runs.”
Buffalo added to its franchise record for victories in the season’s opening month, closing April with a 17-7 record and earning a split of the four-game series.
“We haven’t really had to do that and there’s a situation where we needed insurance runs,” Bush said. “It shows the different things we’re capable of.”
Bush improved to 3-1 and dropped his earned-run average to 1.61 by scattering six hits over six innings. He’s allowed just four earned runs in his four starts since returning from Toronto on April 11.
And he continued to be accurate with his pitches, throwing 57 of his 78 pitches for strikes.
“When I can do that, I can really dictate situations more,” said Bush, a former 12-game winner with the Milwaukee Brewers. “When I get ahead, I can expand the zone.”
“He’s a strike thrower, has 3-4 pitches you can call at any time,” Thole said. “It definitely helps.”
Thole is batting .379 and is only a couple of at-bats shy of qualifying in the IL batting race, where he would be in the top five. He started his second four-hit game of the month by slapping a fly ball the other way to left and it got caught in a stiff breeze and landed in the Bisons’ bullpen.
“You have to make it happen sometimes,” Thole said. “You try to hit your double and if it goes out, it goes out. When you’re going good, you keep swinging and try to ride it out as long as you can.”
A crowd of 3,775 was on hand for the 11:35 a.m. start, which was televised nationally on MLB Network.
The Bisons returned home after the game and the entire International League is off today. Buffalo starts an eight-game homestand against the Louisville Bats on Thursday night at 7 in Coca-Cola Field.