It has been an uncharacteristic two days for Buffalo Bisons starting pitchers.
After putting together 10 quality starts in 13 games, the Herd rotation ran into a hiccup.
Saturday night it was Claudio Vargas who gave up five runs on eight hits in just three innings of work in a spot start.
Sunday afternoon, it was Chien-Ming Wang who struggled on the mound.
Wang ran into trouble in the fifth inning when Toledo put together a solid offensive outburst throughout the order. That sparked the Mud Hens to a 7-6 win in front of 9,102 at Coca-Cola Field.
The Mud Hens got on the board early with two runs but the most damage was done in the fifth. Bryan Holaday led off with a solo home run followed by RBI singles from Avisail Garcia and Jordan Lennerton – all with no outs, while a fielder’s choice from Nick Castellanos plated another run.
Wang left in that inning, finishing his day at 4∑ innings of work – giving up nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Of his six runs, only four were earned.
“That’s not very typical. He’s really shown that he can get us deeper into games,” manager Marty Brown said of Wang’s outing. “I don’t think his pitch count was really affected. He kind of lost command up in the zone with his sinker and was behind in the count a little bit and they took advantage of it. It was third time through the order. They had a chance to see him and he just didn’t make the adjustments that he needed to make.”
Even after giving up two runs early in the game, catcher Sean Ochinko saw Wang’s pitches working well against the Mud Hens – particularly his curve ball, which has been a point of emphasis for Wang’s improvement.
“He was throwing the ball good all game until the fifth when they put some swings on some good pitches,” Ochinko said. “Actually I thought today more than the other starts he had that he was mixing his pitches really well, throwing breaking balls for strikes. The fastball was its normal self.
“But that’s baseball. Sometimes you go out there and weird things happen. Guys put together some good swings on good pitches. We’re not here having this meeting if one of those is a lineout and things like that don’t transpire. He’ll bound back just fine.”
A couple of different bounces in the ninth inning and it would have been a very different postgame conversation for the Bisons.
The Bisons scored in different ways Sunday. Twice, Mauro Gomez drove in runs (one in the first, one in the fifth) on infield groundouts. In the fourth inning, Ryan Goins blasted his fourth home run of the year — a three-run shot to right field.
Then came the opportunities of the ninth when, trailing by 7-5, the Bisons started to rally. It began with Anthony leading off with a single. Kevin Pillar doubled followed by a walk drawn to Munenori Kawaskai, who battled back from an 0-2 count, to load the bases with no outs.
Mauro Gomez appeared to have been hit by a pitch, but the umpire called it a foul ball instead. Back in the box, Gomez put together a quality at-bat and singled to shallow to left center, scoring Gose.
But the rally ended there. Jim Negrych (St. Francis) struck out and Andy LaRoche grounded into a double play.
Still, Brown was pleased with the way the Herd kept themselves in the game and battled in the last inning.
“With Jimmy up there in a one-run game with LaRoche coming up behind, you figure you’re going to get at least one to tie it and hopefully two,” Brown said. “It was a grind getting there. Gomez, you’ve got to credit him. He really put a good at-bat together after the foul ball.
“Hopefully that’s something to build on,” Brown said of the ninth-inning rally attempt.
Buffalo hosts Columbus at 7:05 tonight at Coca-Cola Field.