DURHAM, N.C. – There’s nothing like playing baseball games that matter in the standings late in the season.
The Buffalo Bisons will get to play their fair share of meaningful contests, starting with tonight’s game in front of the home folks against Norfolk (7 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).
The contest against the Tides opens a four-game homestand at Coca-Cola Field, after the Herd capped an eight-game road trip (actually nine but one of the games in Durham Bulls Athletic Park was technically a Bisons’ home game) with their sixth win Sunday.
The Bisons on Sunday split a doubleheader with the Durham Bulls, capturing the first game, 3-0, as the Herd scored all of their runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make a winner out of lefty Daniel Norris in his Triple-A debut. In the nightcap, Robby Price’s sacrifice fly in the second inning produced the game’s lone run as Durham triumphed, 1-0.
The Bisons, who have won 16 of their last 21 games, took three games out of five in the ballpark that had been their personal house of horrors since 2009. They had lost 10 straight here until opening the five-game set with a win Thursday.
Kevin Pillar recorded hits in both games for the Herd, extending his hitting streak to 17 games.
Norris, who entered Sunday a combined 9-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 21 starts at Class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, is Toronto’s No. 6 ranked prospect by Baseball America and showed why he’s a potential star in the making. He struck out 10, walked one and yielded just two hits in six innings of work. Sergio Santos pitched the seventh for the save. In 102 innings with New Hampshire, Norris struck out 125.
Norris faced more than three batters in an inning only once Sunday.
The Herd took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on run-scoring doubles from Jared Goedert and Jonathan Diaz. Pillar homered in the sixth inning to make it 3-0.
Pillar recorded two of Buffalo’s four hits in the second game, smacking a two-out double in the seventh but was left stranded when Ryan Schimpf flied out to left.
The Bisons enter tonight’s action 3ø games back of International League wild-card leader Pawtucket. Buffalo’s starter is likely to be determined as scheduled hurler Brad Mills (1-0, 3.14) was called up Sunday night by Toronto following its marathon 19-inning win over Detroit, according to a tweet from Fan 590, the Blue Jays’ radio home An earlier tweet from the Toronto Star had the Jays sending infielder Ryan Goins back the the Herd.
The Jays also claimed catcher George Kottaras off waivers from St. Louis and sent him to the Bisons, who placed outfielder Adron Chambers on the disabled list. Kottaras has played 309 career big-league games, hitting .216.
On Wednesday, ex-Bisons great and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Manto will be in the house once more, as he receives induction into the International League’s Hall of Fame.