It was the International League’s best offense against the best pitching staff.
On Tuesday, offense won out. Just barely.
With three runs in the sixth inning, including a bases-loaded walk from reliever John Stilson, the Gwinnett Braves took a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field.
The Bisons had gone up 2-0 and starter Sean Nolin had worked out of a few early jams thanks to timely pitches and some good defense.
But it started to come apart in the sixth. Nolin again faced the bases loaded in the sixth giving up a hit and walking two batters. Back-to-back singles to center field drove in two runs, tying the game 2-2. Solid throws by Anthony Gose in center field held runners at third base.
Nolin left the game at that point. John Stilson came into the game and walked his first batter, which put Gwinnett up, 3-2.
Stilson then got a strikeout and a fly to center field to end the inning and leave the bases loaded with the Herd only trailing by one.
“Mulligan. Mulligan inning,” manager Gary Allenson said. “You know Sean did a great job of working out of a couple of jams with one out and these guys have the best hitting club in the league. They’re not an easy lineup to go through. It’s a good test for him to work through a couple of guys there who are probably going to be big leaguers. I thought he did a pretty good job. He lost his command in the sixth.”
Darin Mastroianni started the offense for the Herd with a solo home run in the first. The Bisons pushed another runner home in the fifth when Brett Carroll led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out double from Munenori Kawasaki. It was his sixth double in his last seven starts.
But that was it. The Bisons were stymied by Gwinnett starter Daniel Rodriguez, who gave up the two runs on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked only one.
“I thought in the first inning we were going to open the game up a little bit, but we weren’t able to push across any more runs. He just never really got himself in any jams,” Mastroianni said about Rodriguez. “He just made some really good pitches all game. He just kept us off balance. I’d like to say we were tired from the travel, but I don’t think that’s it. The guy just threw a real good game. He just kept himself out of trouble all game.”
Nolin (2-2) took the loss, getting tagged for all three runs while walking four with three strikeouts.
Even with the loss, the Herd still owns one of the best records in the International League. At the quarter-mark of the season, the Herd is 21-15 and a half game behind Pawtucket in the IL North Division. Before the game, the Toronto Blue Jays recalled outfielder Kevin Pillar and optioned Jonathan Diaz to the Bisons.
Chris Getz was active for Tuesday’s game with the Herd after he cleared waivers. Also back for the Bisons was third baseman Andy LaRoche, who returned after spending 25 games on the disabled list with a lower back strain.
The homestand continues tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520) with Ricky Romero (0-1, 6.00 ERA) scheduled to start for the Herd against Gus Schlosser (0-1, 9.82 ERA).