Injuries and slumps have rendered the Buffalo Bisons’ offense pretty meek recently, although the club has still managed to stay in the playoff hunt.
But just as things heat up for the stretch drive, the batting order will have to deal with a potentially crippling blow.
Infielder/designated hitter Mauro Gomez — the International League’s home run leader — is going to be on the shelf for an extended period of time after suffering a strained left oblique Saturday night during his third at-bat of the Bisons’ 5-3 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Without Gomez, the Bisons were drubbed, 8-1, in Sunday night’s rematch before 9,358 in Coca-Cola Field. The Bisons were held to six hits, just one for extra bases, and blew a chance to pass the PawSox in the IL wild-card race. Instead, they fell 1½ games back.
Gomez can’t swing and told The News after batting practice that he expects to be out at least two weeks, a major issue considering there are only 28 games left in the season. The team has not yet put him on the disabled list but that appears to be a mere formality.
“They’re saying 7-10 days minimum but I’ve never seen anybody predict these things,” said manager Marty Brown. “We hope for the best. He’s been a huge part of our offense but there’s no need to sit around and cry about it. We’ve got to pick ourselves up.”
Although Gomez is batting just .243, he has 28 home runs and is fifth in the IL with a team-high 67 RBIs. It seemed like he was a shoo-in to become the first Bison with 30 homers since Karim Garcia hit 31 in 2001, and a threat to challenge Alex Ramirez’s modern-era record of 34 set in 1998.
Now, there’s no way to know definitively how long Gomez will be out – or what kind of shape his swing will be in when he returns.
“I’m sad, very sad,” Gomez said. “I want to finish strong, do what I can do. But I can’t play. Really sad.”
Gomez said he noticed the injury while he was at first base Saturday and it came on a swing that produced a liner off Pawtucket pitcher Charlie Haeger that produced a base hit.
“When I got to first, I went to move and that’s when it hurt,” he said.
Gomez said he suffered the same injury in 2006 during a pre-spring training instructional camp in the Dominican Republic and recalled missing nearly two months before he was able to return to start his Class A season in Texas’ chain.
“When I had it before, it was really bad,” he said. “When I coughed, it hurt. That’s how it was. It’s not that bad this time.”
The Bisons continue to lead the IL in home runs with 108 but most of those, of course, came from Gomez, and many others came much earlier in the season. Luis Jimenez has 16 but hasn’t connected since June 28 because of a lingering knee issue, although he put on an impressive show in winning the team’s annual postgame home run derby over Andy LaRoche and Ricardo Nanita.
“We have to understand we’re going to have take care of runners at third, less than two outs,” Brown said. “We really need to hone our situational hitting and take advantage of every opportunity we get.
“I could really care less if we hit another home run the rest of the year. That can be the finish of our home runs right there – Jimenez, LaRoche and Nanita. That’s fine with me. We have to take care of the baseball, get leadoff men on base and make things happen. If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long winter.”
The Bisons did very little during the game against 6-foot-7 Pawtucket right-hander Anthony Renaudo, who allowed four hits over six shutout innings in his Triple-A debut. Renaudo, 22, was Boston’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010.
The PawSox broke open a 1-0 game with four runs in the fifth off Buffalo’s Justin Germano (7-8). The Bisons narrowly averted their 10th shutout loss of the season as their only run came in the eighth when Anthony Gose scooted home on an error by Pawtucket third baseman Will Middlebrooks.