As the game wore on, it became clear the winning run in Sunday afternoon’s game between the Buffalo Bisons and Durham Bulls would come on an interesting play.
And of course, it did.
With Mike Nickeas on second base after a leadoff double, pinch hitter Ricardo Nanita dropped a bunt down the third-base line.
Durham relief pitcher Juan Sandoval played the ball but his throw to first ended up in right field.
Nickeas scored. Game over. The Bisons had a 1-0 win in 14 innings over the Bulls in front of 10,166 at Coca-Cola Field.
It was the third straight win for the Herd and another dramatic finish.
“We never really let anything get us rattled, which is nice to see,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “We’ve been resilient all year. We haven’t given up. We always feel like we’re in the ball game. Somebody’s going to rise to the occasion. I think today was no different.”
Pitching and strong defense dominated all game. The Herd’s Todd Redmond pitched six shutout innings, giving up three hits with a walk and three strikeouts, giving the rotation its seventh straight quality start.
The bullpen picked up from there as David Bush, Tommy Hottovy, Buddy Carlyle, Mickey Storey and Joel Carreno combined to continue the shutout.
Carreno pitched the 14th to pick up the win. In all, the staff scattered eight hits and got out of a few jams, including eight innings in which the Bulls had runners in scoring position.
“I can’t say enough about our bullpen. … I think everybody did a great job,” Brown said. “All in all it was a great team effort. We didn’t swing the bats the way we really need to, but you have to credit their pitcher too, he threw the ball very well.”
Durham starter Jake Odorizzi kept the Herd off balance, giving up just two hits and striking out six in eight innings.
Sandoval (0-1) took the loss, giving up three hits, including the double to Nickeas, who came into the game in the 10th inning.
The Bulls used four pitchers which, when combined by the six used by the Bisons, means 10 hurlers were used during the long afternoon.
Nickeas struck out looking in his first at-bat in the 11th, then got a good swing on the ball in the 14th setting up the winning run.
“It was a tough at-bat,” Nickeas said. “The guy was throwing hard and throwing well. I was trying to battle and was just hoping to get on base for us. The double was a bonus. I haven’t been swinging it terrifically so really nice.
“Then Nanita doing his job, getting the bunt down. Guy kind of messed up the play and we were able to get out of here.”
The game became the longest scoreless affair in Coca-Cola Field history. The 13 scoreless innings surpasses the previous mark set on April 5, 2000, when the Bisons and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre went 11 scoreless innings before Scranton earned a 1-0 win in the 12th.
The Bisons conclude their home stand tonight (7:05 p.m., TWSN, Radio 1520 AM) with lefty Ricky Romero getting the start . Romero has put together two straight quality starts, exiting each game with the lead only to have the Herd lose, leaving Romero with no-decisions.
The lefty is 0-1 in eight starts for Buffalo with a 6.69 ERA. Lefty Mike Montgomery (3-1, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for Durham.