The late-game clutch hitting has been the exciting part of the last few games at Coca-Cola Field.
But the reason why the Buffalo Bisons have been able to win games with late-inning offense is because the pitching staff has been solid and consistent.
Sunday afternoon it was reliever John Stilson who picked up his first win of the season, tossing three scoreless frames in the Herd’s 5-3 win over the Charlotte Knights.
Stilson struck out six batters and retired all nine he faced, throwing 38 pitches, 26 for strikes.
It’s the longest outing of Stilson’s relief career.
“That was a big day for me,” said Stilson, who was a starting pitcher earlier in his career. “I think it was a step in a positive direction. I’ve been working on some things. I was really excited how it turned out. … Just slowing myself down, slowing the game down. I’ve always had trouble doing that. I slowed it down enough to where I could get some guys out.”
Getting guys out has been a key for the Bisons bullpen.
In the four-game sweep of Charlotte, Bison relievers pitched 16 innings. They gave up four hits with two walks with 23 strikeouts.
“We’re just going out there, competing and throwing strikes,” Stilson said. “That’s all you can do out of the pen is get ahead of guys, put pressure on the hitter and if you make your pitches you’re going to get outs.
“When you see a guy going out there, throwing strikes, it just makes you want to go out there and do the same thing. That way coach can call on you, ‘Hey, you ready to go? Let’s go do it.’ ”
The entire Bisons’ staff has been pitching well. Stilson was able to go through three innings because he was effective and kept his pitch count down, something that makes manager Gary Allenson’s life so much easier.
“I really like it when guys don’t throw a lot of pitches,” Allenson said. “Because I think we have a tendency sometimes to not necessarily pitch it but throw it or we try to nibble with it. … It’s nice when you can get quick outs. Let the defense do it, especially the way we’re playing defensively there. If I was on the mound I’d want them to hit to somebody, too.”
Speaking of pitchers, Bisons starter Marcus Stroman was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays late Saturday night. He arrived in Pittsburgh on Sunday morning and made his major league debut out of the bullpen. He came on in the eighth and threw ∏ of an inning, giving up one run on one hit.
Allenson said Austin Bibens-Dirkx will take Stroman’s spot in the rotation and will get the call tonight when the Herd opens a four-game series against Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga. It marks the beginning of an eight-game road trip for the Bisons. It will conclude with a visit to Charlotte.
Bibens-Dirkx began the season in Double-A New Hampshire and was the Fisher Cats Opening Day Starter.
Liam Hendriks (4-0, 1.26) and Sean Nolin (2-0, 1.55) are expected to start on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Herd.
Conor Gillaspie hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for the Knights and finished the game going 1 for 4, striking out twice. Gillaspie joined the Knights on Sunday from the Chicago White Sox to begin his major league rehab assignment. The 26-year old infielder is on the 15-day disabled list for the White Sox with a left hand contusion.
Kevin Pillar went 2 for 5 to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. It is the longest active streak in the International League. … Bobby Korecky picked up his second save, throwing the ninth inning. He has pitched 21 straight scoreless innings. … Sunday’s paid attendance was 4,730 but about half that was in attendance as the first-pitch temperature was only 49 degrees.