Welcome to Independence Eve at Coca-Cola Field as the Bisons meet the Rochester Red Wings in front of what will be the season's biggest crowd. Might even approach a sellout. Perfect weather and the Herd is 4-0 heading into the final game of its homestand.
Triple-A rookie Lucas Duda will be the focus tonight as he's homered in five straight games for Buffalo. If he goes deep tonight, he will break the all-time franchise record in 125 years of Bisons baseball. And keep in mind, Duda only had nine home runs last year in Double-A. This power surge is out of character.
We might have a long game tonight, at least from the start, because of the two teams' starters. Rochester is going with lefty Glen Perkins, a 12-game winner for the Minnesota Twins two years on the road back from shoulder trouble who is just 1-8, 8.25 in 16 starts for the Red Wings. Say this for Perkins: He's consistent by month as he was 0-3, 8.10 in April, 0-3, 8.14 in May and 1-2, 7.99 in June. That's tough to do.
Duda will be batting eighth in the Buffalo lineup against the lefty. He's batting .400 against right-handed pitching but it just 3 for 18 against lefties.
Ortiz, meanwhile, has not been an answer in his first two starts for the Herd since being signed as a free agent. He has no record but a 14.14 ERA. In seven innings, he's given up 11 runs on 19 hits and opponents are batting a robust .514 against him. But the Red Wings are a pathetic 2-14 in their last 16 games and might be just what he needs to see.
There are still reportedly about 2,000 tickets left for this one. If you've never been to BPO night, it's highly recommended. Always a great show. One word of warning: Lots of parking lot gouging going on in the city-operated lots. On Washington Street across from the park I saw the $15 sign going up at 3 in a lot that normally $8. The lot and ramp on Exchange Street that are normally $6 are $10. Boo to that.
Anyway, check this post throughout the night for updates on the game, specificially on Duda's at-bats. Here's the Buffalo lineup:
Justin Turner, 2b
Luis Hernandez, ss
Jorge Padilla, cf
Mike Jacobs, dh
Valentino Pascucci, 1b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Mike Cervenak, 3b
Lucas Duda, lf
J.R. House, c
Ramon Ortiz, p
6:32 p.m (End 2nd, 0-0): So much for my prediction of lots of runs against these two pitchers. Both teams have just one hit so far. The first pitch was at 6:05 and the game-time temperature was 79 degrees. Jorge Padilla singled in the first for Buffalo and Jose Morales singled in the second for Rochester. Duda will lead off for the Bisons in the third.
6:42 p.m. (Bot 3rd, 0-0): Duda is retired in his first at-bat on a looper to left fielder Jacque Jones.
6:45 p.m. (End 3rd): Zip-zip after three.
6:58 p.m. (End 4th): Zip-zip after four. At this rate, it won't nearly be dark enough for the BPO to start playing and to have fireworks. This game better slow down a little.
7:19 p.m. (End-5th): Zip-zip through five. Duda grounded to first to end the inning and fall to 0 for 2. Both teams have only two hits.
7:31 p.m. (End-6th): Zip-zip through six. Three hits for Rochester and two for Buffalo. There's been some great games here this week. Too bad this big crowd is seeing a snoozer. Only one man to second base in six innings between two teams. Bizarre.
7:50 p.m. (Mid-7th): The Red Wings break the tie and take a 1-0 lead as Brendan Harris is hit by reliever Jose De La Torre's 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded (just grazed him on the shoulder after coming back from an 0-2 count). Ortiz got pulled after back-to-back walks loaded the bases -- and his 2-2 pitch to Jose Morales looked pretty good but plate umpire Dan Bellino squeezed him and called it a ball. Great DP started by 3B Mike Cervenak on a short hop got the Bisons out of the inning.
8:03 p.m. (End 7th): Rochester holds its 1-0 lead. Perkins is relieved by Kyle Waldrop after giving up a two-out single to Fernando Martinez but Cervenak lines out to center to end the inning and leave Duda on deck. The Bisons have not had a runner past first base tonight after scoring 41 runs in their last five games.
8:10 p.m. (Bot-8th): Duda goes down, swinging through an Anthony Slama pitch on a check swing. He's 0-3and his streak is over unless this one goes extra innings.
8:26 p.m. (End, 8th): Herd still down, 1-0, after getting its first runner to second on J.R. House's one-out walk and Luis Hernandez's two-out single. Bellino drew the Bisons' ire again by calling a low 1-1 pitch to Jorge Padilla a strike. Terrible call. He rang Padilla up on the next pitch. Brutal game behind the plate tonight.
8:43 p.m. It's over. Martinez grounds into a DP to end it and Rochester wins 1-0. Duda was two men away in the ninth. Just the second home shutout loss of the season.