Mickey Storey sat in the Buffalo Bisons dugout in the bottom of the ninth inning and noticed the difference.
On the road, it’s been all smiles and good times for the Herd. Back at Coca-Cola Field, it’s been more challenging.
Storey gave an impressive performance in three innings of relief, but the Bisons’ offense could not find its groove, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Louisville Bats in downtown Buffalo on Thursday night.
While the Herd are 17-8 overall and in first place in the International League North Division, they fell to just 6-5 at home.
“I was thinking about that the last inning in the dugout. … There’s a different vibe in the dugout when you’re down some runs but on the road it’s the complete opposite,” Storey said. “We’re winning every game and you’re rolling and the music’s playing in the locker room. Again it’s baseball. You play good one day. You play bad one day. You win some at home. You lose some at home. That’s just how the cookie crumbles. But ultimately we’ve been a pretty good team. I think our record shows that.”
For Storey, Thursday’s performance was needed after his last two outings were subpar.
His last appearance in Buffalo, in the first game of a doubleheader with Pawtucket on April 25, he lasted two-thirds of an inning, giving up three hits, including two home runs. He threw an inning in Rochester on April 28, giving up one walk and two hits.
Pitching the final three innings against the Bats, he struck out six and gave up just one hit and one walk. In 16∑ innings this season, he has struck out 23.
“We had the off day [on Wednesday] and I took time to regroup,” Storey said. “I just wanted to come out, have a good outing and get back to my routine. … It was a good day on the mound for me but ultimately we want to get a team win.
“Traditionally I strike out a lot of guys. It’s almost like a running joke amongst the pitchers and bullpen guys. I’ve got to strike guys out because every time they put it in play it seems like it’s a hit. It’s not something I’m trying to do. It’s something that’s been part of my game my whole life. If I could I’d strike everybody out, but that’s not going to happen.”
Storey took over for starter Claudio Vargas (3-1), who opened the game with a pair of strikeouts and blew through the first two innings before getting into trouble in the third. Vargas gave up two walks and three hits as Louisville took a 3-1 lead.
“Claudio had the one inning where he got away from using his fastball and it got him into some trouble with some walks,” Herd manager Marty Brown said. “Take that one inning away and we’re still playing. It’s 1-1.”
The offense that has powered the Herd and leads the International League wasn’t terribly effective Thursday.
It started off with a bang as Jim Negrych drove the first pitch he saw into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead.
Then with two outs, a line drive from Luis Jimenez went off the ankle of Louisville starter Armando Galarraga. He left the game and was replaced by Yohan Pino (1-2), who scattered four hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 6∑ innings.
“He kept mixing his cutter in, used his two-seamer and located down in the zone,” Brown said. “We never got comfortable off of him. It’s like we were looking for a certain perfect pitch and before you know it we’re 0-2. … Pino just happened to be on his game.”
As the Bisons ran into a solid performance from Pino, the offense found itself pressing.
“I think everybody was up there trying to do too much rather than just play the game the way we’ve been playing it,” Brown said. “Get a man on first base and moving him first to third. Doing the little things is what we’ve been good at all of April.
“Tonight guys were up there swinging first pitch and allowing easy innings and never getting any real momentum. We didn’t allow things to happen. We tried to make things happen all the time. We didn’t let the game come to us.”
Before the game, the Toronto Blue Jays recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln from the Bisons. He pitched 1∏ innings in Toronto’s 3-1 loss to Boston. Lincoln has pitched in six games for the Herd this season with a 1-0 mark and a 3.72 ERA. He has struck out 11 batters in 9∏ innings. … The announced attendance was 4,731. … The four-game series between the Herd and Louisville continues tonight (7:05, TWCSN, Radio 1520) with righty Edgar Gonzalez (1-0, 6.75 ERA) scheduled to start for the Bisons against Louisville right-hander Greg Reynolds (2-0, 3.07).