All year long, Mauro Gomez had come up with big hits. That’s why before Thursday’s game he was named the Buffalo Bisons’ most valuable player.
Thursday night, he came up with the game-winning hit as the Bisons put together a dramatic eighth inning for a 3-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings in Coca-Cola Field.
The win keeps the Bisons’ slim playoff hopes alive.
Down two runs in the eighth, Jim Negych drew a one-out walk. Luis Jimenez pinch hit for Mike Nickeas and belted a home run to right field to tie the game.
Then with two outs, Blake Gailen doubled, The outfield shifted left when Gomez came up to bat and Gomez pulled the ball down the right-field line. The fair ball bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double that scored Gailen and gave the Herd the lead.
“He’s gotten big hits all year and obviously he hits the ball with a lot of power with 29 home runs this year,” manager Marty Brown said. “He made an adjustment from the previous at-bat where he punched out on a breaking ball trying to do too much. I think he made an adjustment in that at-bat to stay the other way and give us a chance to drive in that go-ahead run.”
The offensive outburst in the eighth helped dig the Bisons out of a funk from the rest of the game. They had just two hits before the eighth inning and only one player in scoring position, thanks to a second-inning double from Andy LaRoche.
It was a pitching duel for much of the first part of the game as Buffalo starter Sean Nolin kept Rochester off the board for the first five innings.
But with two outs in the sixth, Eduardo Escobar drilled a 3-2 pitch to center field. It was the 100th pitch of the game for Nolin. His day was done after that, although Mickey Storey had already been warming up in the bullpen.
Nolin finished giving up one run on one hit in 5∏ innings. He walked three and struck out five.
“It was tough to let up,” Nolin said. “The hit was all right, but to let up the home run for them to go up 1-0 kinda got to me a little. I just wanted to try and get that guy out. I knew it was going to be close to my last batter. I just wanted to try and get him out, attack him and not walk him.”
“He knows his stuff, just tonight he didn’t command the ball the way he wanted to,” Brown said of Nolin’s performance. “I think he made big pitches when he had to but he didn’t command it as well. ... As much as he was trying to be aggressive in the zone, he still would find himself losing pitches and that’s youth. Every pitch means something. You don’t just grab it and wing it.”
Rochester got another run in the eighth when James Beresford scored on a single by Deibinson Romero.
But then came the eighth. It started with Negrych taking the one-out walk then with Jimenez belting the home run shot. The last time a Bison hit a pinch-hit home run was Oswaldo Navarro on July 17, 2012, in a 17-1 win over Toledo.
The Buffalo Bisons presented their annual team awards in a pregame ceremony Thursday.
Gomez was named the Stan Barron Most Valuable Player. His 29 home runs are the most by a Bisons player since Karim Garcia hit 31 in the 2000 season.
Justin Germano earned the Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher. The Bisons Opening Day starter, Germano made 24 starts for the Herd, going 8-9 with a 4.47 ERA.
Pitcher Chien-Ming Wang earned the Judge Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year Award. Wang went 4-3 in eight starts with the Herd with a 3.18 ERA.
Mike Nickeas won the Joe De Sa Inspirational Player Award. Jim Negrych was the Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero and Anthony Gose won the Fermo Valone Community Service Award.
Mike Klein was named the Joe Byron Fan of the Year. Born in Buffalo, Klein grew up watching games at Offerman Stadium and War Memorial Stadium. He has been a season-ticket holder since Coca-Cola Field opened in 1988.
Also giving its annual awards was the Buffalo Bisons Booster Club. Negrych was named the favorite player, Wang the favorite pitcher and Mike McCoy the unsung hero.
The booster club also presented manager Brown with a solid maple cutting board in the shape of a Buffalo made by Williamsville native Craig Alexander.
There was a blitz of roster moves before the game as the Bisons activated Wang and added catcher Jack Murphy was promoted from Double-A New Hampshire.
Wang rejoined the Herd after he was designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays and cleared waivers. It was the right-hander’s second stint with the Blue Jays. He is 1-2 with a 7.67 ERA in six starts with the Herd.
Murphy played 56 games with New Hampshire, where he hit .218 with 11 doubles and 22 runs batted in. He was promoted to the Bisons July 11-13 but did not appear in a game.
The Bisons also placed catcher A.J. Jimenez on the temporary inactive list with an elbow injury, retroactive to Aug. 28, while lefty Tommy Hottovy was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 27.
The Herd will finish its season on the road with two games in Rochester and two games in Syracuse.
The Red Wings and Bisosn will play tonight at Frontier Field (7:15 p.m., TWC , Radio 1520 AM) with Kyle Drabek (1-2, 4.35) scheduled to start against Kyle Gibson (7-5, 3.04 ERA).
Saturday’s game in Rochester will feature Drew Hutchison (0-2, 6.46) while Ricky Romero is scheduled to start when the Herd plays at Syracuse on Monday (6:30 p.m.)