MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
The Mud Hens have been given a taste of their own medicine over the past three days. And the taste has been very bitter.
Just as the Hens won the first three games of their series in Buffalo last week, the Bisons have returned the favor in the first three days of this four-game set at Fifth Third Field. Last night Buffalo earned a 4-3 victory over Toledo in front of a crowd of 5,805.
And the Bisons have won these first three games in the same ways the Hens won at Buffalo's Dunn Tire Park - the starting pitching has been excellent, and the offense has produced runs when it had the opportunity.
“We've gotten off to good starts against them in all three games, just like they jumped on us at home,” said Buffalo manager Marty Brown. “But we've gotten three good [pitching] starts here, and in any series you go into, that will give you a chance.”
Last night it was left-hander Jason Stanford who kept the Hens in check, allowing just five hits and a pair of runs in seven solid innings. Stanford said he took a cue from the Herd's previous two starters, Jason Phillips and Jamie Brown, on how to shut down Toledo.
“I watched [Phillips and Brown] be aggressive, try to get ahead of the hitters and throw all of their pitches for strikes,” Stanford said. “If you get ahead of the hitters, they'll have to hit your pitch. I was able to get their hitters to hit my pitch.”
Stanford's only mistakes came in the fourth, when Danny Klassen doubled to the wall in left-center, and in the seventh, when Ernie Young led off with a mammoth homer off the top of the scoreboard in left. Klassen scored on a sacrifice fly by Young to account for the two runs Stanford allowed.
The Hens had just seven hits last night, and that's their largest total in this three-game series. Hens manager Larry Parrish said there are several reasons Toledo is having trouble scoring runs.
“We're struggling offensively, and that's something we're going through that I hope we just pop out of one day,” he said. “But we're not the only team Buffalo has been shutting down. There's a reason for their record. When you get starting pitching like theirs you can be aggressive on the bases, hit-and-run and steal.”
The Bisons scored twice in the opening inning. Coco Crisp led off the game by coaxing a walk from Hens starter Andy Van Hekken, and one out later Greg LaRocca drove Crisp home with a double in the left-center gap. Then with two outs Alex Escobar blooped a double down the right-field line that allowed LaRocca to score.
In the fourth the Herd added two more runs off Van Hekken. Jhonny Peralta led off with a single, and Luis Garcia doubled him to third. Dusty Wathan drove a 1-2 pitch into the hole between first and second for an RBI single, and Nate Grindell's RBI groundout accounted for Buffalo's final run.
But those four runs were more than enough for the Bisons. Toledo had a chance to tie the game in the eighth when Hiram Bocachica singled, then moved to third on a one-out single by Kevin Witt.
Bocachica scored on a bizarre fielder's choice by Young - Witt was tagged out running to second but was called safe, while Young was called out even though Buffalo first baseman Garcia wasn't touching the bag when he caught the ball.
But Chad Paronto got Wendell Magee Jr. to ground out to end the eighth-inning threat, then got through the ninth to record his fourth save.