The Buffalo Bisons put themselves in advantageous positions Sunday. They took the early lead. In both games.
That’s not something the Herd has done a lot of recently – play with an early cushion.
In the first game, the Herd jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-run home run from Kevin Pillar and an RBI single from Eugenio Velez.
In the second game, the Herd took a 4-0 lead in the second thanks to the first Triple-A home run from catcher Sean Ochinko – a three-run shot to left field.
Ochinko had two home runs with Double-A New Hampshire before being promoted to the Bisons on June 7.
“For sure, it feels good,” Ochinko said. “It’s always an adjustment coming up to a new level and getting used to the guys and everybody. Just to drive in some runs and give us an early lead.”
“It’s always tough on the pitchers and on the hitters when you fall behind early and are trying to scratch and claw your way back into the game,” said third baseman Andy LaRoche. “Getting the lead early takes the pressure off.”
LaRoche helped the Herd scratch their way back into the game on Saturday night with a two-run home run in the ninth inning. But the Bisons’ late-game rally fell short in a 4-3 loss to Syracuse.
No need for rallies on Sunday with the early leads, and LaRoche helped the offensive cause in the first game, going 3 for 3 with an RBI single and a run scored. He went 0 for 1 in the nightcap, drawing two walks.
Anthony Gose drove in two runs in the first game with a two-out single.
The doubleheader marked the third and fourth games back for LaRoche, who spent time on the disabled list with soreness in his arm.
LaRoche was injured on June 18 when he felt a twinge in his arm in his first game of the season at second base and was placed on the disabled list June 20, retroactive to June 19. He was activated July 2 and returned to the lineup Thursday.
“It wasn’t anything serious,” LaRoche said. “I just felt a little pinch in there. I wanted to let our trainer know about it and he thought it deemed me going on the DL. I ended up doing my time on that and now I’m ready to be back out there.”
He is starting to get his timing back at the plate and though he returned to his regular spot at third base, he’s still open to playing any spot on the infield.
“I enjoy second base,” he said. “I enjoy all over the infield. So it changes things up. It keeps it exciting. Wherever they need me at. I guess the more positions I can play, the more value that I have. Wherever they want me to play, I’m more than happy to go out there and give it my best.”
Speaking of the disabled list, it’s a bit curious that Luis Jimenez isn’t on it. The first baseman and designated hitter hasn’t played since July 1 as he deals with tendinitis in his knee.
“He’s kind of day to day. We’ve got to wait and see,” manager Marty Brown said. “He’s obviously on some medication. He’s got tendinitis. As soon as that goes away and gets to a point bearable, I’m sure he’ll be back in the lineup.”
Why not put him on the DL?
“Because we don’t know,” Brown said. “He could wake up tomorrow and this stuff kicks in and he’s gonna feel good. You put him on the DL, you’re going to lose him for at least five days. I’d rather it not be that long. It could end up being that long, but I hope not.”
Dave Bush pitched a complete game in the first half of the doubleheader. He gave up two runs on five hits in the seven-inning game. Bush struck out eight and walked just one to improve to 8-6. He threw 86 pitches, 59 of them for strikes.
His one glitch was a two-run home run by Will Rhymes in the third inning that carried just over the fence in right field.
“I think Dave is going to go out and give you everything he has,” Brown said. “Today, being ahead in the zone really helped him. He got ahead in the count and kept stuff down in the zone. He gave up the one home run ball that could have been caught but it still was a really positive outing for Dave.”
With Bush and Chien-Ming Wang both throwing complete games in the doubleheader, they became the first Bisons starters to do that since July 18, 2009.
On that day, Jonathon Niese pitched a complete game, 1-0 win over Toledo. Nelson Figueroa followed that with a 2-0 win.
The Bisons have today off and will travel to Syracuse for two games starting Tuesday. The Herd’s rotation has not been announced.
The team then travels to Lehigh Valley for games on Thursday and Friday before returning to Buffalo for a weekend series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday night and a single game Sunday before the Triple-A All-Star break.