So many little things, so many big things. The Buffalo Bisons did them all well Sunday in a tidy 7-1 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Coca-Cola Field. If we’re going to see playoff baseball in these parts for the first time since 2005, this was the kind of game this team has to put together more often.
The Bisons hit the All-Star break at 49-47 after Sunday’s win. They’re only 3ø games out in the North Division race and just 1½ back in the wild card. It’s not like the 17-7 April but it’s a big improvement over what this club put on the field through most of May and June.
The Bisons haven’t been in the postseason since manager Marty Brown’s last tour of duty here ended in ’05. He has a chance to end the drought that covers the final three years of the Cleveland affiliation and the miserable four years with the New York Mets.
And Brown has a pretty easy theory on what this club needs going forward.
“It’s just consistency on the offensive side and understanding we’re not the same club we were in April either,” Brown said. “Pitching wise, I think we’re OK. Our starters have done a pretty good job the last couple weeks and in our bullpen we’ve got some pretty good arms as well.”
Even though the Bisons are taking the next three days off for the All-Star break, don’t get lulled into thinking it’s the halfway point of anything. In Triple-A, remember, the season finale is on Labor Day. When play resumes Thursday, there will be only 48 games left – or just one-third of the 144-game season.
The Bisons were 10 games out of first place on June 27 but are back in the race because the Pawtucket Red Sox have endured a gruesome 3-15 stretch.
Buffalo won five straight but got back to town just past 3:30 a.m. Saturday after Friday’s game at Lehigh Valley was rained out. Playing a twinbill that night is not usually any recipe for success. In 14 innings spanning nearly 4ø hours, the Bisons scored one run.
“It was two games where we were pretty low on energy,” Brown said.
Ricky Romero looked like a big-leaguer on the mound again Sunday, and Munenori Kawasaki helped in the energy department as well. In his first game in Buffalo since April 9, the Japanese second baseman got huge applause for every at-bat as a conquering hero from Toronto after becoming one of the great curiosities anywhere in the majors. He smallballed the game’s first run and then turned a rolling catch of a looper in right into an acrobatic double play.
Said Brown: “He makes everybody enjoy the game more, even if you’re tired.”
Where the Blue Jays have succeeded compared to the Mets is filling in holes from Double-A and even making adjustments during the season.
IL home run leader Mauro Gomez was an April waiver pickup from the Red Sox, for whom he was the MVP last year in Pawtucket. Outfielder Kevin Pillar has been a revelation from the Double-A club in Manchester, N.H., and catcher/first baseman Sean Ochinko opened the sixth inning with his third home run since his promotion.
“The Blue Jays do a good job in this system bringing guys along at the right time,” said Ochinko. “The coaches do the job of taking guys in slowly and making them comfortable and that really helps. I know a bunch of guys from spring training but I haven’t played in a real season with a lot of them either.
“They have major-league time, a lot of experience overall so I just wanted to make sure I show those guys respect and do the job for them.”
The Bisons have sold more than 110,000 tickets in their last 10 home dates and whether they’re from Buffalo or Southern Ontario, they’ve been into more than just the Chicken Wing race.
They’d like to see some baseball deep into September.