Perhaps it was a matter of running into hot pitchers or maybe it was finally time – after a five-game winning streak – for the Buffalo Bisons hitters to endure a moment of offensive silence.
Whatever the case, the Bisons winning streak has vanished thanks to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who swept two from the Bisons at Coca-Cola Field on Saturday night.
Chien-Ming Wang tossed another strong performance in the first game only to be outdone by RailRiders veteran Chris Bootcheck.
The 34-year-old International League All-Star right-hander went seven innings and allowed just four hits and limited the Bisons to a run during Scranton’s 2-1 win before a Blue Jays night crowd of 12,952.
The RailRiders dipped deep into the bullpen in the nightcap as Francisco Rondon, Dellin Betances and Yoshinori Tateyama combined for a five-hit shutout, 5-0.
After the second game, Marty Brown joked that the media should bring their bats for today’s game after the Bisons were held to nine hits on Saturday. Or maybe he wasn’t joking.
“I don’t know what’s going on but we just didn’t get it done,” Brown said. “It was a pretty poor performance.”
Bisons shortstop Mike McCoy, who went 2 for 3 in the nightcap, said credit has to go to the RailRiders’ pitchers.
“They pitched well and had our number,” he said. “We’ve had some tough travel lately and been on the road back and forth. That doesn’t help playing two games on a travel day.”
Brown acknowledged traveling in the IL North Division can be difficult – the Bisons traveled six hours from Lehigh Valley on Friday night – but added that some on his team may have already checked out for the All-Star Break. Then, he fired a warning shot.
“You’re out here to play professional baseball and there’s a lot of other things you can be doing and if you don’t watch yourself you’ll end up doing it,” Brown said.
Bootcheck, who struck out and walked three was at his best in the seventh. He sat down Eugenio Velez looking after running up the count 3-0, but froze Velez who couldn’t pull the trigger on a 3-2 fastball. Clint Robinson went down swinging, then Anthony Gose grounded out to Bootcheck to end the game.
Bootcheck, who made his Major League debut with Anaheim 10 seasons ago, has also had stints in Japan and Korea in addition to stops with Pittsburgh and New York Yankees. His current deal with the Yankees has an Aug. 15 opt-out date.
It was a tough loss for Wang (1-1), the 2006 Cy Young runner up to Johan Santana, who threw six innings and gave up two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
Bisons pitchers have posted good starts in their last eight nine games. Entering Saturday, the group has a combined a combined 3.02 ERA and 42 strikeouts since July 4. In that same span, they have walked only six.
The Herd missed an opportunity in the fourth. Jim Negrych, the St. Francis product, led the inning with a walk and moved into scoring position on a hit to center by Mauro Gomez. But Andy LaRoche’s soft liner up the middle was fielded by shortstop Walter Ibarra who stepped on second and tossed out LaRoche at first. Still, the Herd placed runners on the corner after Bootcheck walked Velez, who then stole second. Robinson flied out to end the threat.
Scranton’s David Adams led the fourth inning with a double. Then the next batter, Dan Johnson, hit a shot to right that barely crawled over the wall and into the first row of Bully Hill and the Bisons trailed, 2-0.