The best the Buffalo Bisons can say about their recent road trip is they’re glad to be back home.
Behind the strong pitching effort of starter Todd Redmond, the Bisons began to erase the memory of their road struggles and opened an eight-game homestand at Coca-Cola Field with a 5-4 triumph over lowly Gwinnett on Monday night.
An aggressive Redmond pitched ahead in the count and put pressure on the Braves’ hitters in six innings while yielding just two runs on five hits and striking out three.
“I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes and do what I had to do and keep the guys in the game,” Redmond said. “Our bats were hot and we got the timely hitting when we needed it.”
Indeed, Redmond received a huge boost from the top of the order as Anthony Gose, Jim Negrych, Mauro Gomez, Luis Jimenez and Moises Sierra combined to go 8 for 19 with three runs and three RBIs. Gose was frozen in a 4 for 30 slump until Monday when he went 2 for 4 while leading off. Hitting second, Negrych, the St. Francis grad who is now batting .349 for the season, went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.
“The thing about Negrych is you can hit him anywhere in the order,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “I like the way Jimmy swings the bat in the two hole, he makes things happen for sure.”
Andy LaRoche added some insurance in the sixth with his eighth homer that gave the Herd a 4-2 lead. Negrych’s sacrifice fly in the eighth plated LaRoche to give the Herd a three-run lead.
It proved to be much-needed after the Braves scored a pair of runs in the ninth.
“Gose did a great job coming in and Roche also hitting the home run,” Redmond said. “Late in the game, they had some good quality at bats and that was a good thing.”
Last Tuesday in a loss at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Redmond (2-1) struck out seven in only four innings. Redmond, who started his third game for Buffalo, began the 2012 season with the G-Braves and was 6-6 with a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts. The Bisons claimed Redmond on waivers from Baltimore in March.
“It’s always good to face the Braves just because I came from them … four and a half years,” he said. “It’s also good to pitch against them and see some familiar faces. … Just about everyone up there except for about one or two, that I either played against or played with the last couple of years.”
Buffalo got on the board in the second when LaRoche hit a hard shot down the third base line that was fielded cleanly by Alden Carrithers, whose throw to first was wild. That allowed Moises Sierra, who singled to start the inning, to score from second.
In a microcosm of their season, the Braves ruined an opportunity to break the game open in the second with one out because of poor base running.
Todd Cunningham singled with the bases loaded and drove in two runs, but Jose Constanza was caught in a rundown between second and third and was tagged out. Then Cunningham was caught trying to run from first and second to end the inning.
The Herd regained the lead at 3-2 in the third when Jimenez’s RBI double scored Gose before Negrych scored on a fielder’s choice.
Buffalo could have tacked on some insurance in the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded, but Braves starter Omar Poveda fired back-to-back strikeouts of Sierra and Langerhans.
The Bisons (36-33) still trail first-place Pawtucket in the International League North by five games. However, with the win, they moved back into second place, a half-game in front of Lehigh Valley.
From April 20-May 23, the Bisons were either tied or in sole possession of first place and their biggest lead was three games on May 5. They haven’t been in first since.
The Bisons faced the right team to break out of a slump. Since winning seven straight against Toledo and Syracuse from May 23-29, the Braves are 4-13. Monday’s loss was their fifth straight. Their current losing streak is not as hideous as April’s when they dropped 14 in a row.
Gwinnett was 16½ games out of first place in the International League South coming into Monday’s game.
The teams will meet again tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) with righty Dave Bush (7-4, 4.23) scheduled to start for the Herd. The Gwinnett starter has not been named.