It wasn’t pretty.
The game featured 12 walks, four errors and lasted two hours and 37 minutes. And that was in a seven-inning doubleheader nightcap.
But there are no style points in the International League standings and the Buffalo Bisons will take a win any way they can.
Monday, they capitalized on three Syracuse errors for a 3-2 win in the second game, earning a split with the Chiefs after dropping the first game, 5-3, in front of 6,148 at Coca-Cola Field.
The result puts them half a game ahead of Norfolk and Pawtucket in the IL wild-card race and three behind Rochester in the North Division standings.
“A win’s a win,” manager Marty Brown said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it done in the first game, but we battled throughout the game. … The second game we battled to get the runs we got, took advantage of them making some errors and fortunately held them toward the tail end of the game.”
The Bisons jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when back-to-back errors with one out put Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar on base. After Clint Robinson drew a walk to load the bases, Moises Sierra flew out to right, allowing Gose to score. A single from Andy LaRoche brought Pillar home and the Herd had the early lead.
A walk to Jim Negrych again loaded the bases, but Sean Ochinko struck out, ending the possibility of the Bisons blowing open the game in the first.
Buffalo added another run in the fourth when back-to-back walks put Negrych and Ochinko on base. They moved up on a wild pitch and Negrych scored when Mike McCoy’s shot to short went off the glove of Zach Walters and into shallow center for a 3-1 lead.
Meanwhile, it was a rough start in the opener for Ricky Romero. He gave up four runs on three hits with two walks – all before the first out of the game was recorded. Romero battled back and settled down, and the Bisons stayed in the game with Syracuse, but the Chiefs hung on for the win.
After a bases-clearing double from Chris Marrero, Romero retired the next three batters and had a 1-2-3 second inning. After that he gave up one more run in the third and scattered six hits while striking out seven to match his season high with the Bisons.
Romero ended up pitching a complete seven-inning game, throwing 68 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
“I was proud of the way he regrouped himself after the four-run first,” Brown said. “But he’s got to figure out a way to get prepared for the first inning to where these things don’t happen. It’s difficult in a seven-inning game, you’re down, 4-0, right off the bat. It’s not something he was expecting, but you’ve got to find a way to minimize the damage somehow.”
The Herd stayed within striking distance and had an opportunity for some final at-bat heroics.
Sierra led off with a single. Luis Jimenez reached on a misplayed ball by the shortstop. That should have put runners on first and second with no outs, but as the ball rolled into short center field, Sierra decided to try for third. He was easily thrown out. Then Ryan Goins grounded into a double play to end the game.
The scoreboard-watching portion of the playoff race happened earlier on Monday.
In afternoon games, Gwinnett defeated Lehigh Valley, 5-4. Meanwhile in Norfolk, Rochester came away with a dramatic 9-4 win in 14 innings over the Tide.
Eduardo Escobar had a two-run single in the ninth to tie the game for the Red Wings. Then Rochester scored four in the 14th to win the game, receiving solo home runs from Jermaine Mitchell and Brain Dinkelman and a two-run double from Chris Parmelee.
The series concludes tonight (7:05 p.m., TWCS, Radio 1520 AM) as Thad Weber (6-4, 2.63) is scheduled to start for the Bisons against Taylor Hill (0-0, 5.79).