Just before Moises Sierra stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning, former Toronto Blue Jay George Bell gave him a few words of wisdom.
“I think George might have talked to him a little bit,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said of Bell, now a Blue Jays consultant. “George Bell was like, ‘you’ve already struck out four times, what do you have to lose now?’ It did relax him a bit.”
Sierra erased a bad day at the plate with one swing – a towering double off the left field wall – that scored a pair of runs for the Buffalo Bisons giving them the walk-off win, 7-6, over the Columbus Clippers at Coca-Cola Field Thursday afternoon.
“That’s Mo. That’s exactly what he’s going to do,” catcher Mike Nickeas said. “Every at-bat is new for him. He’s going to just do his thing every time and good things are going to come for him.”
Good things came for the Herd in that ninth inning.
Trailing, 6-3, Clint Robinson led off the inning with a walk. Mike McCoy’s bunt single to first base was followed by a single to left from Anthony Gose, loading the bases with no outs.
Nickeas came to the plate and blasted a line drive to left field to score Robinson. A sacrifice fly to center from Kevin Pillar cut the lead to one, 6-5. Then Ryan Goins came to the plate. During his at-bat, Goins called for time but the home plate umpire didn’t grant it. Goins stepped out of the batter’s box anyway. That confused Columbus reliever Nick Hagadone and the Bisons moved their two baserunners into scoring position.
Goins struck out, but that set up the at-bat for Sierra. With the outfield playing shallow, Sierra’s shot quickly got behind leftfielder Tim Fedroff who couldn’t make the catch against the wall.
Game over. Bisons win.
“We kind of built into it ... There was a lot of smart offense really and gave ourselves an opportunity to get Mo up there,” Brown said.”
“It was great,” said Nickeas who finished 2 for 4 while driving in three runs. “To be down three and making some mistakes early. They hit the ball very well today so we kind of had our backs against the wall and just we hung in there. We haven’t won a lot of games down by a few runs in the eighth inning. To come back … showed a little tenacity and we need that right now.”
Actually, this was the first game the Bisons have won all year when trailing after eight innings. They are now 1-36 in games when they trail after eight.
And that tenacity is needed this time of year. Despite returning from the Triple-A All Star break in a bit of a funk, Buffalo has won three straight and are still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Bisons are 3½ games behind International League North Division leader Pawtucket and just 1½ games out of the wild-card spot behind Rochester and Norfolk.
“This is the time of the year when we want to start playing our best baseball,” Nickeas said. “We want to start rolling into a point where we can make a playoff push. I think we have the team to do it. It’s just a matter of us getting hot now.”
Luis Jimenez was activated off the disabled list for the Bisons before the game. The slugger was on the DL since July 5 missing 17 games with knee tendinitis. He leads the Bisons in batting average (.307) and slugging percentage (.545). In 75 games, he is second with hits (85), home runs (16) and RBI (61).
Meanwhile infielder Jim Negrych was placed on the disabled list with an injury to his left Achilles. The IL All-Star has batted .305 with 38 RBIs and 50 runs scored in 84 games. He leads the Bisons in hits (91) and doubles (25).
“He’s got a strained Achilles and he’s been limping around on it for a couple of days so we just felt this was an opportunity, especially with Jimenez getting back to us, it would be a perfect time to get him healthy,” Brown said. “Take seven days off, get some treatment and he can finish out the season, hopefully at 100 percent.”
Relievers Mickey Storey, Bobby Korecky and Brad Lincoln combined to throw 4∏ shutout innings for the Bisons’ bullpen. Lincoln (3-2) picked up the win, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning with one strike out. … Columbus starter Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 batters in five innings. … Thursday’s attendance was 11,180. … The Herd begin an eight-game road trip today, starting with a four-game series at Toledo (7 p.m., Radio 1520). Righty Chien-Ming Wang (5-6, 2.63 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd against lefty Ramon Garcia (3-8, 6.51 ERA).