ROCHESTER – It felt like a playoff atmosphere. Packed stands. Close game. The season on the line.
Brad Mills didn’t think about any of that. His goal was to keep everything as consistent as possible. With the help of another sparking defensive performance, Mills pitched seven shutout innings and the Buffalo Bisons are alive for another day.
A 3-0 win over the Rochester Red Wings in front of 11,198 at Frontier Field Saturday night combined with a 6-2 win for Syracuse over Pawtucket means the Bisons are within 1½ of the PawSox for the wild card spot with two regular seasons games left.
The Herd finishes the season at Syracuse, tonight and Monday while Pawtucket hosts Rochester for the last two with the Red Wings also still in the wild card hunt.
Despite the implications for the playoff push – the Herd needed to win to stay alive – Mills kept himself focused on the game at hand.
“You don’t want to have it feel any different or any more pressure because that’s not what we work so hard to do,” Mills said. “We want everything the same. Every pitch is the same. Every at-bat’s the same. It’s playoff quality baseball because we’re playing good baseball. We’re seeing good plays in the field, good at-bats. It’s not sloppy out there, which is probably why it’s a post-season feel.”
Mills scattered three hits over his seven scoreless innings. He issued three walks with four strikeouts, throwing 47 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
“He mixed it up, kept them off balance,” manager Gary Allenson said. “He doesn’t throw hard, obviously, but he’s got a repertoire of pitches that creates the doubt in the hitter’s mind in the batter’s box. You can look fastball and get it, but you’re still thinking about the change-up and the curve ball. He mixed it up real well.”
Mills also benefitted from another solid defensive showing from the Herd. The Herd turned two double plays while shortstop Ryan Goins made several impressive plays at short – from leaping catches to a dive and a flip to first which dampened any Rochester rally.
“That was a game that the defense can take credit for,” Mills said. “They hit a lot of balls hard. Goins made all the good plays. The outfielders ran the ball down. (Ryan) Schimpf turned a double play. (Matt) Hague had a nice one at third. That was all the defense. I found a little bit too much plate on some of those pitches, but they made some good plays.”
The Herd manufactured its offense early off starter Alex Meyer, who left after giving up three runs on two hits and facing just six batters. Rochester manager Gene Glynn said Meyer didn’t feel well.
The Bisons scored using the speed of Dalton Pompey. The outfielder led off with a single, stole second and took third on a passed ball. Cole Gillespie flew out to left. The ball wasn’t hit very deep, but Pompey broke for home and made it easily.
The Herd added two more runs in the second on an RBI double by Matt Hague and a sacrifice by A.J. Jimenez.
Mark Hamburger pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up two hits with six strikeouts for the Red Wings.