One of the most enjoyable parts of the game for Darin Mastroianni is the first inning.
The Buffalo Bisons’ leadoff batter likes to get on base and move into scoring position. He likes to get that first run of the game, to give his team a quick start.
Mastroianni will take any way on base, but Monday he did it with three hits, scoring two runs as the Bisons again pounded out offense.
The Herd won their Victoria Day matinee, 8-4, over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in front of 5,321 at Coca-Cola Field on Monday.
In the first inning, Mastroianni led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Goins. He then scored on a sacrifice to right by Dan Johnson to give the Bisons a 1-0 lead.
“That’s my favorite thing in the game to do is get on in the first inning, steal and score some runs,” Mastroianni said. “For me, that’s the highlight of my day today. “
The lead evaporated quickly as Leandro Castro homered off starter Chad Jenkins in the second inning to give the IronPigs a 2-1 lead. But the Herd got it back, and then some, with big innings in the fifth and sixth.
Mastroianni again singled in the fifth and scored when Brad Glenn blasted a bases-clearing double to the center field wall.
In the sixth, he singled and kept the inning alive for the Herd by breaking up a double play with an aggressive slide into second. That allowed one run to score and set up a two-run hit by Jared Goedert, slamming the door on an IronPigs comeback.
“We roll together pretty good,” Mastroianni said. “When we get guys on base things seem to roll. It’s key. It’s part of my job to get on base and Goins’ job to get on base and guys in the bottom of the order to get on so we can let ... those guys in the middle of the order drive us in.
“You can see when we are getting on base we’re getting more hits, getting more runs. That’s what we’re paid to do. It’s important we keep doing that.”
It was the second straight three-hit day for Mastroianni, who is now hitting .316. It was his 14th game hitting in the leadoff spot. Anthony Gose, now up with Toronto, hit at the top of the Bisons’ order 22 times. Chris Getz (now retired) hit there four times and Kevin Pillar (now with Toronto) was leadoff once.
Mastroianni has “been on fire,” manager Gary Allenson said: “He’s getting on base. He doesn’t have to have a hit to get on but once he gets on he’s something to be concerned with there because he can steal a base. That’s probably a big key for us.
“We’ve had a little bit of trouble with the leadoff spot. Not that those guys weren’t good hitters or good players but he’s doing a good job of getting on base one way or another and making things happen.”
Jenkins made a spot start for the Herd and took a no-decision giving up two runs on four hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 4∏ innings. Ryan Rowland-Smith picked up his first win with the Herd, throwing 2∑ innings.
Marcus Stroman returns to the Bisons’ roster and will start today in the series finale at Coca-Cola Field (1:05 p.m., Radio 1520).
The right-handed pitcher was optioned back to Buffalo by the Toronto Blue Jays late Sunday. Stroman was the Opening Day starter for the Bisons and went 2-2 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts.
The Blue Jays selected his contract on May 3 and put him in the bullpen. He pitched in five games there, going 1-0 with a 12.79 ERA.
“He’s on a pitch count and hopefully we can get four out of him and go from there,” Allenson said. “I think they want to get him back pitching once every five days and building up his pitch count again.”