It was about the little things. Getting the leadoff runner aboard. Moving the runner over. Scoring on a sacrifice fly.
It was about creating opportunities and manufacturing runs.
And it added up to a solid team win for the Buffalo Bisons in the middle of a crucial playoff race.
The Herd scored in each of the first three innings to build a lead and take a 6-2 win over the Rochester Red Wings at Coca-Cola Field on Friday night.
The Bisons remain third in the wild-card standings, a game and a half behind Pawtucket and half a game behind Norfolk after both teams picked up wins Friday night.
But they gained ground in the International League North Division Race. The Herd now trail Rochester by 2½ games.
And right now, the Bisons still very much can control their playoff destiny if they take care of their own games.
They did that Friday night in front of an energetic crowd of 15,676. Trailing by 1-0 after a first-inning run from Rochester, the Herd scored once in the first, once in the second and twice in the third to build a 4-1 lead with everyone in the order contributing.
In all, the Bisons knocked out nine hits from seven different players, had four extra base hits and did a better job with their collective approach at the plate.
“We’ve been working on situational hitting extremely hard,” manager Marty Brown said. “I think they’re seeing how it pays off. Throughout the order guys are trying to get things done from the first inning on. … It was a very good team baseball night. I think we can move forward with this and it’s definitely going to help our offense.”
Center fielder Mike McCoy was key for the Bisons, batting leadoff. He started the game with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Goins and scored on a ground out by Moises Sierra.
“My opinion, getting one run here, one run there is just as big as trying to hit the three-run homer,” McCoy said. “Sometimes we don’t have the big bats in the lineup. … so you have to manufacture a little more.”
In the third, McCoy again led off the inning with a double, moved to third on a ground out by Goins and scored on a double by Sierra.
“I just think I got some good pitches to hit and I hit them hard,” said McCoy, who finished 2 for 5. “Luckily they found some holes. I seem to struggle at home sometimes so I was happy to get some hits early in the game.”
McCoy has 50 starts as the leadoff batter – the most of any player for the Herd in the No. 1 slot this season.
“Mike is just a scrappy type guy,” Brown said. “Sometimes he gets pushed back because of prospects or whatever, but just a really good leadoff hitter. … He’s pesky up there. He’s not scared to take a pitch. He’ll hit with two strikes. When Mike puts his mind to it he really battles.”
Starter Chien-Ming Wang worked six innings to pick up the win. He gave up two runs on six hits, walking three and striking out five.
Mickey Storey, fresh off his third stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, relieved Wang in the seventh. He pitched two innings, giving up just one hit with one hit batter.
Storey was optioned to the Bisons after the Blue Jays recalled outfielder Anthony Gose on Friday. Storey worked 51∏ innings in 30 appearances with Toronto.
After the game, Brown said he expected that catcher A.J. Jimenez (.279, 29 RBI) and outfielder Kenny Wilson (.280) would join the Bisons in Pawtucket from Double-A New Hampshire.
With his single in the second inning, infielder Jim Negrych picked up his 100th hit of the season. He is the first player for the Bisons to hit the century mark this year. … The Bisons will play the next four games on the road, heading to Pawtucket for a key head-to-head battle for both the IL North Division and wild-card races. … Ricky Romero (3-6, 6.20) is scheduled to start tonight for the Herd (6:05 p.m., Radio 1520, 550 AM) against Steven Wright (6-6, 3.65).