The Buffalo Bisons featured a new tag line over this homestand, celebrating their affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays by proclaiming, “We are in this together.”
P.J. Walters hasn’t been part of the Blue Jays system for very long this season, but he’s already all in.
After one bad pitch that led to a leadoff home run, Walters was solid in helping position the Bisons for a 7-1 win over the Columbus Clippers in front of 11,531 at Coca-Cola Field on Friday night.
Walters gave up a home run to Tyler Holt – the first batter of the game – but settled in for a solid performance aided by some great defense behind him.
In the sixth, shortstop Ryan Goins made two beautiful plays, one to smother a grounder and another to turn a double play, which preserved a 2-1 Bisons lead.
Walters came up big in the seventh. Giovanny Urshela led off with a triple after Kevin Pillar barely missed holding on to the ball for spectacular catch in center field.
Walters came back with a strikeout. He got the next batter to pop up to shallow center, where Pillar fired the ball to hold Urshela at third. Walters again worked the hitter for a strikeout to end the inning.
“Pillar on the triple, he almost caught that ball and I’m sure he expects to catch it,” Walters said. “Just seeing him lay out, put effort into it, that’s all we can ask.
“I want to leave that guy there for him as much as for me. He had a great effort out there and just missed it. Leaving that guy there makes him want to dive for the next one. We all pull for each other and play for each other.”
Walters finished giving up the one run on four hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts through seven innings.
The 29-year-old picked up his second win in his second start with the Bisons. He was acquired last month by the Blue Jays as part of the trade for Melky Mesa with Kansas City. Walters, who went 1-4 in eight starts with the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Pacific Coast League, pitched in four games with Double-A New Hampshire after the trade.
He made his Bisons’ debut on June 22, getting a win against his former team, the Rochester Red Wings.
Walters made 19 starts for the Red Wings last season and went 2-5 in eight starts for Minnesota in 2013.
“I had a rough start to the season, but coming over here and getting a fresh start is probably a good thing and we’ve got a great group of guys so it makes it pretty easy,” Walters said.
“He made a mistake the very first hitter. Had the guy, 0-2, and threw him a fastball right down the middle of the plate,” manager Gary Allenson said. “Other than that he was pretty good. He was aggressive with his fastball. It looked like he used both sides of the plate. He used that slider just enough to keep guys off balance. ... He was sharp.”
Offensively the Herd took a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Ryan Schimpf homered to tie the game and Adron Chambres had an RBI ground out.
The Herd broke the game open in the eighth with five runs. A.J. Jimenez and Andy LaRoche each had two-run singles while Goins added an RBI single.
“It’s really nice for the manager when you can sit back, relax and tell a couple of jokes in the last inning,” Allenson said. “I wish we could do it a little earlier where I would relax for a couple more innings, but I’ll take them in any inning.”
The Bisons begin a four-game road trip today in Syracuse before returning for a short, three-game, two-day homestand.
Esmil Rogers (2-1, 3.00) is scheduled to start for the Herd today (7 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) followed by Liam Hendriks (6-0, 1.82) and Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 4.73).
The Herd will host Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 2 for a single-admission doubleheader at 5:35. They will face the Yankees again on July 3 in the annual Independence Eve celebration.