As the Buffalo Bisons have surged into the playoff race, they can’t afford many missteps.
Tuesday night was a virtual recital of them, as the Herd fell flat in their return to Coca-Cola Field.
An uncharacteristically poor outing from starter Sean Nolin coupled with ineffective offense, especially early in the game, produced a 7-2 loss to the Rochester Red Wings in front of 8,799.
The loss coupled with Pawtucket’s 7-0 win over Lehigh Valley dropped the Herd three games behind the PawSox for the lone Wild Card spot in the International League playoffs.
“It’s only one game. Come back tomorrow night and hopefully get a win,” manager Gary Allenson said. “We’re not getting much help right now. We’re going to have to help ourselves. … We’ve got to keep ourselves within striking distance with the Wild Card team. Any time they win and we lose, that’s a big deficit to overcome with 14 games to go. We’re just going to have to forget about this one just like our last couple of tough losses.”
The Bisons didn’t do much to help themselves, as the Red Wings took a 2-0 first-inning lead.
Nolin, who had been stellar in his last four starts since returning from a groin injury, threw too many pitches – many outside the strike zone – and was tagged for six runs on five hits in four innings.
Five of the six runs he surrendered came with two outs.
“You know what he’s been pretty good since he came back,” Allenson said. “Obviously a mulligan start for him. It wasn’t very good. He fought himself a little bit too much. … Too many walks. Behind too many guys.”
Rochester built a 6-0 lead, including a two-out bases-clearing double by Pedro Florimon in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Bisons couldn’t get anything going against Tyler Duffey.
The 23-year old Duffey was making just his second Triple-A start. He picked up his second win, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked only one and struck out six in his six innings.
The only Bison to consistently produce was Brett Wallace. He had three hits and drove in both Buffalo runs. That included his solo home run into the right field parking lot in the fourth.
“Sometimes there’s games like that where the starting pitching is going to get into a rhythm,” Wallace said. “They got a bit of a lead so I think he pitched maybe a little more aggressively than he might have in the past. We were probably trying to work the game a little bit and get back into it.”
Dan Johnson, back with the Bisons on a Major League Rehabilitation assignment, went 1 for 4 with a base hit.
If there was good news in the loss it was the performance of Bobby Korecky in the ninth. The closer had struggled in his last three outings, giving up 10 earned runs. He pitched a clean ninth with a strikeout.
The two-game series concludes tonight (7:05 p.m., TWC, Radio 1520 AM) with lefty Brad Mills (1-0, 3.14) scheduled to start for the Herd. Rochester will counter with righty Alex Meyer (6-6, 3.37).
The Herd will continues the eight-game homestand with two games against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and four against the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Fans who donate a backpack or other school supplies before today’s game will receive a free ticket voucher to be used at any game in April 2015. The Bisons have partnered with LaFarge for the “2 Pack a Backpack” campaign that will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Buffalo. Fans can donate school-related items at several collection areas throughout the stadium.