The Buffalo Bisons built their early season success on the strength of their pitching.
Welcome to the official bump in the road.
Both Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek struggled in their starts Friday night as the Buffalo Bisons dropped a doubleheader to the Gwinnett Braves in front of 5,847 at Coca-Cola Field.
The struggles of Romero hit a new milestone. He set the franchise record for most walks in a game in the modern era with nine in a 4-1 loss.
Drabek didn’t give up a walk, but he gave up eight runs, six earned, on 11 hits in five innings as the Herd dropped the nightcap, 9-3.
Romero’s outing was a struggle. A scoring change meant he did give up one hit in his 2∏ innings of work, but he walked nine - including five straight in the second inning that gave the Braves a 2-0 lead.
His final line included two strikeouts with two earned runs, throwing just 25 of his 75 pitches for strikes.
“So much of it is just throwing strike one,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “He’s just one pitch away and I think more than anything it’s pitching to contact, staying around the middle of the plate, getting a strike. ... More than anything going out there with a positive attitude and go from there.”
His nine walks set a franchise record. The previous mark for most walks by a Bisons’ pitcher was eight set by Victor Cole (1992 against Oklahoma City) and tied by Jason Stanford (2006 against Columbus).
Romero was an American League All-Star with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 when he had 15 wins and a 2.92 ERA. He posted 51 Major League wins from 2009-2012.
But late in 2012 Romero’s game suddenly, and inexplicably, went south. He had a 13-game losing streak with Toronto. He joined the Bisons in May last year and has been with the Herd ever since, trying to regain the form that made him a consistent big league pitcher.
In his seven starts this year, Romero has just two decisions - losses in his last two starts. His ERA is 6.07 but more distressing is that he has 32 walks in 29∏ innings of work.
“The trials and tribulations continue but he’s worth the chance of figuring it out obviously with what he did when he was up there before this started going on,” Allenson said. “It’s a step back but you know part of being a professional is just forgetting about it and moving on.”
Drabek didn’t fare much better. He didn’t surrender any walks and lasted into the fifth inning, but he was hit around pretty good.
“I felt good. I was throwing strikes. They just were swinging,” Drabek said. “Unfortunately for me not a lot of them were placed where we could get them.”
The offense for Gwinnett was no surprise. The Braves are the International League’s best hitting team.
But Buffalo’s offense didn’t come close to staying on pace. The Bisons had two hits in Game One, scoring an unearned run on a throwing error.
In the second game, Dan Johnson had a solo homer in the second. The Herd scored twice in the sixth - once on an RBI single from Jack Murphy and once on a wild pitch.
The Bisons open a four-game series with Lehigh Valley today (4:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). Righty Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.51) is scheduled to start for the Herd against righty Jonathan Pettibone (2-0, 3.42).