When Kevin Pillar thinks about home field advantage, he thinks about the little things.
It’s not so much about comfort or familiarity with the surroundings as it is about an opportunity to do more work.
“Whenever you’re at home, you can get a little more work in. You get here a little earlier, you can put some extra time in the cage,” Pillar said. “And it’s going well.”
It’s going really well for Pillar and for the Buffalo Bisons lately. Pillar had an RBI double to extend his hitting streak to eight games on Friday. The Bisons earned a 4-2 win over the Indianapolis Indians in front of 13,174 at Coca-Cola Field.
With the win, the Herd closed out their homestand with an 8-2 record.
It was an important roll for the Bisons, who returned to Coca-Cola Field after the All-Star Break 10 games out of first place in the International League North Division.
Entering Friday, they had played their way back into contention, sitting five games behind divisional leaders Syracuse and Pawtucket and five games out of the Wild Card spot. They’ve done the work despite having a constantly changing roster.
While the nature of Triple A is to have a roster that’s constantly in flux, it’s been an unusually active year in transactions for the Bisons. They entered Friday’s game with 199 moves this year – a modern era franchise record – with 62 different players appearing in a game for the Herd this season.
“It just shows you how much determination everybody else has got here once we lose somebody,” manager Gary Allenson said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about guys filling in. It’s getting contributions from everybody, and it all goes back to pitching, hitting and defense. You get a combination of two of those three and hopefully all three, and good things will happen.”
Good things have started to happen for the Bisons, who are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2005.
It’s a difficult task considering they need to jump three teams, all in the IL North.Syracuse has been solid all season, although they’ve hit a skid going just 3-7 in its last 10 games. Pawtucket went on a tear winning 12 games in a row and Rochester has been consistent, going 6-4 in its last 10 games.
Pillar said the team is aware of the standings but they’re not scoreboard watching. The classic cliché applies – you can only control what you do.
But the more the Herd controls winning, the better their chances are not only for the playoff push, but also for turning heads with the Toronto Blue Jays brass.
“Especially with what they’re doing up there and winning games and trying to make a playoff run themselves,” Pillar said. “I think it’s good practice for the guys down here, especially the guys who have a chance to go up in September and be able to contribute and be in an environment where winning is all that matters and trying to make that playoff push.”
“Everyone’s trying to do their best to get back up there. At the same time, winning kind of knocks on the door to get up there. They want winners up there and if we can win down here it makes our job a little easier to get back.”
In Friday’s win, Ryan Schimpf homered to give the Herd a 1-0 lead, but Indianapolis went up, 2-1, in the seventh.
The Herd rallied in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. Jared Goedert singled, followed by a rip from Jonathan Diaz that just missed clearing the leftfield wall. Darin Mastroianni drew a walk to load the bases. Adron Chambers then worked an eight-pitch at-bat and singled up the middle to drive in two runs. Pillar then hit a ground-rule double to drive in another run and give the Herd a 4-2 lead.
The team heads out on the road, kicking off of a four-game series against the Tides in Norfolk tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 550 & 1520 AM) with recently promoted Kendall Graveman getting his first Triple-A start for the Herd.