Alex Pressley appeared to be have a bead on Mauro Gomez’s shot to left center but with the wind blowing toward left field one of two things was bound to happen: Pressley was going to make a catch at the wall or Gomez was going to give the Buffalo Bisons an early lead.
As the ball carried, Pressley approached the wall and leaped but the ball, and the glove of the Indianapolis Indians’ center fielder, sailed over the fence for a two-run homer. Pressley stretched out his arms, shrugged his shoulders and waited for someone to retrieve his mitt.
Just after Pressley was tossed a replacement glove, Josh Thole forced him to backpedal again and again he had no play as the Bisons took a 3-0 lead. They added a fourth run in the first, then held on to win, 6-5, on Sunday at Coca-Cola Field.
The Bisons split the four-game set with the Indians, who have the best record in the International League at 34-17. Getting to Tribe starter Brooks Brown (3-1), who lost for the first time this season, was pivotal for the Herd.
“When they do the things they’re supposed to do they’re untouchable, seriously,” the Bisons’ Luis Jimenez said about the Tribe’s pitching staff. “We try to go against them right away, we try and jump on them in the beginning of the count because they try and jump on the strikes a lot. That’s why we needed to focus and we did very good in the first couple of innings.”
Bisons skipper Marty Brown doesn’t like to rely heavily on home runs, but they’ve come in handy as the Herd have improved to 28-20 heading into an eight-game road swing through Durham and Norfolk. Buffalo has hit an International League best 56 home runs, inflating its IL-best .447 slugging percentage.
Norfolk has 52 homers, 11 more than Rochester and Syracuse, which was playing against Columbus in a later game.
“Everybody is comfortable with each other and we talk about pitchers, we talk about little things to make adjustments, and we’ve been doing great,” said Jimenez, who hit his 10th homer in the fifth inning. “We’ve been performing in the right way. Sometimes you try and perform and you don’t do it in the right way so you get restless. We have guys who listen to each other and that’s how we’ve been doing good.”
Jimenez is the only Bison ranked in the top 10 in homers – Rochester’s Chris Colabello leads the IL with 12 – but three are in the top six in hitting, and Jimenez paces the league with 44 RBIs. Ryan Langerhans, who went 3 for 4 and scored two runs Sunday, and Gomez are tied with eight homers.
Andy LaRoche and Eugenio Velez each have six and they’re waiting for Moises Sierra, who has four homers, to display the power he has shown in the past. Sierra hit .289 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs in 100 games at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2012.
“We’ve got the ability up and down the order to hit some home runs with Jimenez and Sierra but we haven’t seen that from Sierra because he’s in a little bit of a funk right now,” Brown said. “He’s got the ability to hit some home runs as well as Gomez. Langerhans has done his part, LaRoche has run into some balls. We do have the ability – which is nice, if you’re down you can get back into a game really quick – but we don’t rely on the home run necessarily.”
The Indians rallied with three runs in the ninth but reliever Neil Wagner, who picked up his 13th save, got Felix Pie to fly out to left field to end the game. Dave Bush (5-4) went five innings to pick up the win.
Left-hander Ricky Romero (0-0, 8.76 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Bisons at 5:05 p.m. today against Durham southpaw Alex Torres (2-2, 2.81).
Thole was struck in the right hand by a foul tip in the seventh but remained in the game. During his at-bat in the bottom of the inning, Thole swung and dropped his bat in pain and, after a brief meeting with Brown, was replaced by Mike Nickeas. Down 0-2 in the count, Nickeas struck out swinging on the next pitch. Brown said there wasn’t any swelling on Thole’s hand but didn’t know if he was going to be available today.