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Bisons continue homestand

Winners of five of their last six games, the Buffalo Bisons look to continue their streak of success against IL North Division leader Lehigh Valley. On the mound for Buffalo is righty Dylan Owen, making his ninth start of the season. Owen has not given up more than three runs in his last four starts and has a 4.10 ERA at Coca-Cola Field.

Earlier today, outfielder Fernando Martinez was recalled by the New York Mets, taking the spot of Willie Harris, who was placed on the paternity leave list for the birth of his child. Also, righty Chris Schwinden (5-3, 3.12 ERA) was the only Bison named to the Triple-A All-Star Team.

Tonight's lineup for the Herd:

Luis Figueroa -- SS
Michael Fisher -- 3B
Nick Evans -- LF
Valentino Pascucci -- 1B
Jesus Feliciano -- CF
Luis Hernandez -- 2B
Bubba Bell -- RF
MIke Nickeas -- C
Dylan Owen -- P

--- Amy Moritz 

Team Gary's pitch at Bisons game tonight

Tonight's 7:05 Bisons game against Lehigh Valley in Coca-Cola Field has been designated the "Team Gary Bisons Benefit Bash" in honor of injured Buffalo police officer Gary Sengbusch.

Proceeds of ticket sales and ballpark raffles will assist in the recovery of Sengbusch, who was critically injured by an alleged drunk driver on February 25. There will be an open party in the center field pavilion at 5 p.m. featuring a concert by Strictly Hip and there will be a postgame pyrotechnics show.

Raffle prizes include a 46-inch flat screen TV donated an autographed by Jay Leno, autographed jerseys from Derek Jeter and Carl Yastrzemski, an autographed goalie  stick from Ryan Miller as well as other prizes from the Bisons and Mets. 

You can read more about Team Gary at this site.

Click here for the recent Buffalo News video on Sengbusch's recovery.

On the field, Nick Evans will try to extend his hitting streak to 20 games after Wednesday's 5-for-5 performance pushed his run to 19, the longest current stretch in the minors. He's an incredible 38 for 74 during the streak. The Bisons and first-place IronPigs, managed by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, have split the first two games of their series.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Evans extends hit streak to 19 games

---Nick Evans hit streak has now reached 19 games thanks to a single to left in the first inning of today's game against Lehigh Valley. Evans is now tied with Columbus' Luis Valbuena for the IL high this season. Valbuena hit safely in 19 consecutive games from May 22-June 9.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Evans leads Bisons against Lehigh Valley

---The Bisons try and rebound from a disappointing Tuesday night loss to the IronPigs that ended a four-game winning streak. Nick Evans hit streak of 18 is one sky of the International League high for 2011. Here is the starting lineup for this afternoon's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Nick Evans, lf
Fernando Martinez, rf
Val Pascucci, 1b
Jesus Feliciano, cf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Raul Chavez, c
Pat Misch, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

The Sandberg Game

For all Ryne Sandberg accomplished during his Hall of Fame baseball career, June 23, 1984 stands out as the day he became a household name.

In a nationally televised game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs second baseman had a performance for the ages. He went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs in a 12-11 victory in 11 innings. Sandberg hit a solo homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and added a game-tying, two-run shot in the 10th. Both homers came off relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, who was the dominant closer of that era.

That game brought a lot of national attention not only to Sandberg but also to the Cubs, who emerged as contenders and advanced to the postseason for the first time in 39 years. Sandberg went on to win his only National League MVP award. He also began an amazing streak of 10 straight All-star game appearances and nine straight Gold Gloves. Not bad for a guy who played his first full season at second base in 1984.

"It was a one-game thing that elevated my thought of what I was as a player, more of an impact-type of a guy, a game-winning type of a player,'' said Sandberg, manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, who beat the host Buffalo Bisons, 6-3, Tuesday in the first game of a four-game series.

"It was my third year in the Major Leagues at the time,'' he said. "I was only 24 years old. It really catapulted me to an MVP season and it also got the Cubs as a national draw. It was a great year. But June 23, which also happens to be my number, it also got me jumped ahead of [L.A. Dodger] Steve Sax as far as me going to the first of my 10 straight All-Star games. I was second place in the voting before that game and within four or five days after that, the game being the Saturday game of the week, I got a lot more votes and started my first All-star game in San Francisco.''

---Allen Wilson   

Sandberg talks baseball

Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg held court with members of the local media at Coca-Cola Field Tuesday before the start of a four-game series between the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and Buffalo Bisons.

Sandberg is in his first season managing the Iron Pigs, and he has them in first place in the International League's North Division. That's an impressive feat for a franchise that has been an IL laughingstock since the former Ottawa Lynx relocated to Allentown, Pa., in 2008. The Iron Pigs started 0-11 in their first year and never spent a day above .500 in the three seasons before Sandberg's arrival.

It's hardly a coincidence. Sandberg was the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year in 2010 with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and has won at every other minor league level.

He credits the Philadelphia Phillies for stocking the Lehigh Valley roster with veteran talent, but he deserves credit for making good use of that talent.

“Out of spring training and early in April it was my job to form a team and get them playing together as a group,’’ said Sandberg, who has seen 10 players promoted to the parent club. “It’s a good group to come to the ballpark every day, so I enjoy that and getting in our work. With their talent and with the work that we put in, the wins have been the side effect of all that.’’

However, he was passed over by the Chicago Cubs' managerial job last offseason. It was a stunning snub considering his greatest seasons came with the Cubs, who made him one of four players to have his jersey retired.

Sandberg could have returned to Iowa, but chose to leave the Cubs organization to manage for the Phillies organization, where his 16-year career began in 1978.

"There was a sense of disappointment, but that’s baseball,'' said the 10-time All-Star, nine-time Golden Glove winner, seven-time Silver Slugger recipient and 1984 National League MVP. "The next thing is what do I do now? The Phillies called me right away to see what my plans were. They got good recommendations about what I did in the Minor Leagues, so they offered me this job. I thought it was a great situation to come back here and wear this uniform and help out the Phillies at the Minor League level. I still have a goal of being a part of a World Series, so if I can do it in this capacity that would be ideal. I really enjoy where I’m at.''

For more on Sandberg's playing and managing career, check out my column in Wednesday's Buffalo News.

---Allen Wilson

 

Herd takes on first-place IronPigs

---The Bisons take on first-place Lehigh Valley in the first of a four-game set with the IronPigs. Lehigh Valley enters Tuesday three games ahead of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the IL North. The Herd, coming off a four-game sweep of Norfolk, is 12 games out. Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Nick Evans, 1b
Jason Botts, lf
Fernando Martinez, rf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Jesus Feliciano, cf
Jack Egbert, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Bisons close out series with Tides

---The Bisons, winners of three in a row, look to capture their first four-game series sweep since late last season when they defeated Columbus at home Aug. 5-10. Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Nick Evans, 1b
Val Pascucci, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Jesus Feliciano, cf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Bubba Bell, rf
Raul Chavez, c
Mark Cohoon, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Herd tries to make it three in a row

---The Bisons have taken the first two games of its series against Norfolk and sends right-hander Chris Schwinden to the hill to face Chris George. Here's the starting lineup for today's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Nick Evans, 1b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Val Pascucci, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Michael Fisher, 3b
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Jesus Feliciano, cf
Chris Schwinden, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Owen takes the mound for the Herd

---Dylan Owen makes his eighth start of the season tonight for the Bisons and he's looking to bounce back from a 2-1 loss in Durham on Monday. Here's the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Nick Evans, 1b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Val Pascucci, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Michael Fisher, 3b
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Bubba Bell, cf
Raul Chavez, c
Dylan Owen, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Lutz leaves game with head injury

---Bisons third baseman Zach Lutz left the game in the fourth inning after being hit in the head by a pitch. Norfolk pitcher Steve Johnson threw a curve ball that didn’t break and struck Lutz in the helmet. Lutz was on the field for a few minutes before walking back to the dugout without assistance from trainers. Luis Hernandez came in the game to pinch run and will play second base while Michael Fisher, who started the game at second, moves to third.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Bisons begin four-game set with Tides

---The Bisons are coming off a 3-5 road trip that began on June 16 and included a split of a four-game series against the Tides. Tonight also marks the beginning of a season-long 10-game homestand. Here's the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Nick Evans, 1b
Zach Lutz, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Val Pascucci, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Michael Fisher, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Bubba Bell, cf
Pat Misch, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Stanley Cup final oddly like '60 World Series

There have been plenty of comparisons between this year's crazy Bruins-Canucks Stanley Cup final and the 1960 World Series won by the Pirates over the Yankees on the Bill Mazeroski home run. Gene Collier has an excellent look at the similarities in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Yankees lost the series despite outscoring Pittsburgh, 55-27, and winning games by scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0. The Pirates' four wins saw two one-run games (including the 10-9 Game Seven clincher courtesy of Mazeroski), as well a game won by two runs and another won by three.

The Stanley Cup, of course, is heading to Game Seven tonight even though Boston has outscored Vancouver, 19-8. Eight goals in six games and the Canucks are still alive? Amazing.

Unlike that World Series, where one of the Yankees' blowouts was in Pittsburgh, this one has stayed completely along home lines. The Bruins have an incredible 17-3 edge in TD Garden with wins by scores of 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. The Canucks, meanwhile, have won at home, 1-0, 3-2 (in overtime) and 1-0.

IMG_0077(I went with Vancouver in seven before this one ever started and don't feel the need to change now. But it's hard to believe a goalie can go through more ups and downs in the playoffs as Roberto Luongo has and still win a Stanley Cup so we'll see).

When I was in the Steel City over the weekend, I paid a visit to the University of Pittsburgh and the site of old Forbes Field, where Mazeroski's home run was hit.

A portion of ivy-covered brick outfield walls, complete with ivy and distance markings remains standing at its spot (click on pic for a bigger view). In addition, home plate from the ballpark's last game in 1970 is kept under glass at its location on the floor inside an adjacent classroom building. Quite cool.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Jeter on DL, sort of like Bisons' homestand

Derek Jeter tried to talk his way out of it but his balky calf that was strained last night has landed him on the 15-day disabled list. So that means the price of Yankee tickets on StubHub for the upcoming road trip to Wrigley Field and Cincinnati probably went down a little as those folks won't see Jeter's 3,000th hit.

Jeter will be eligible to return June 29, the second game at home against the Brewers. The Yankees then play three games against the Mets at Citi Field July 1-3 -- and play a three-gamer at Cleveland July 4-6. Lots of Buffalo folks have tickets for those games. You might be in luck if he struggles or doesn't make it back by June 29. So Jeter will be stuck at 2,994 for a while.

Just like the Bisons seem to be stuck on this homestand. They're 1-6 heading into tonight's finale against the Columbus Clippers, who reminded us all what we're missing without the Cleveland Indians with last night's 8-2 win.

The Bisons have lost four straight and nine of 10. The Clippers have won seven straight and have the IL's best record (43-22). Not a good combination. Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Zach Lutz, 1b
Jason Botts, lf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
Bubba Bell, cf
----
Pat Misch, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Ex-Bison Huff gets start against Herd

HuffFormer Bison David Huff (right) will start for the Columbus Clippers against the Herd tonight in Coca-Cola Field (It's a 7 p.m. game on Time Warner Cable 13). The Bisons (27-38) have lost eight of nine and this is clearly not a good time to be playing the defending Triple-A National Champion Clippers, who have won six straight and own the IL's best record at 42-22

Huff (4-2, 4.37) is the answer to a Buffalo trivia question, as he was the starter and winner in the Herd's last home game as a Cleveland affiliate, a 3-2 triumph over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 28, 2008. The Indians, of course, moved to Columbus for the '09 season. Huff and reliever Jensen Lewis are the only players on the Clippers' roster who once played Triple-A ball in Buffalo.

Huff was just 2-11, 6.21 in 15 starts for Cleveland last year and was most noted for getting smoked in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive. But he recovered from that and went 8-2 for Columbus in the regular season, then posted a 1.93 ERA in two starts in the IL playoffs and was the winning pitcher in the Triple-A National Championship victory over Tacoma.

Couple notes on the Bisons: Cleanup man Valentino Pascucci has 37 RBIs since May 10. No one else in the IL has more than 26 in that span. Dylan Owen will get the start for the Herd tonight. 

The Buffalo lineup:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Valentino Pascucci, 1b
Zach Lutz, dh
Jason Botts, lf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Raul Chavez, c
Bubba Bell, cf
---
Dylan Owen, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Photo: Huff works for the Herd in a 2008 game at then-Dunn Tire Park (John Hickey-Buffalo News file photo).

Bisons look to rebound

After dropping a 7-6 decision to Columbus last night, the Buffalo Bisons hope to rebound and right their homestand with today's 1:05 game against the Clippers at Coca-Cola Field. The Herd has lost seven of its last eight games and is 1-4 in the current homestand.

Josh Stinson (3-5, 6.04 ERA) gets the start for Buffalo. His last outing on June 7, he took the loss to Indianapolis, giving up six runs on eight hits in 1.1 innings of work.

Today's starting lineup for the Herd:

Luis Figueroa -- SS
Michael Fisher -- 2B
Fernando Martinez -- DH
Valentino Pascucci -- 1B
Zach Lutz -- 3B
Jesus Feliciano -- CF
Jason Botts -- LF
Bubba Bell -- RF
Mike Nickeas -- C

--- Amy Moritz 

Carrasco gets rewarded with call from Mets

PITTSBURGH -- Bisons pitcher D.J. Carrasco was pretty philosophical Wednesday night in Coca-Cola Field when I asked him about the New York Mets. The veteran signed a two-year, $2.4 million deal with the Amazins in the winter but was in Buffalo by the end of April. He had middling results at first but felt was starting to go his way, and it didn't hurt that his pitches were really starting to bite. The result was one earned run over the last 15 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts.

"The ball is in [the Mets'] court," Carrasco told me after throwing 5 2/3 no-hit frames but getting a no-decision against Indianapolis. "They're the big team and they can do what they want to do. The most I can do is stay here and throw strikes, put up numbers, get good reports and hopefully they like what they see."

Carrasco and I had a good laugh about Wednesday night's chat this morning here in PNC Park. He thought he was ready for the big leagues but had no idea the call was coming this soon. The Mets obviously liked what they heard from Buffalo manager Tim Teufel and pitching coach Ricky Bones because Carrasco joined the Mets today. It was a well-deserved callup (of course, it now leaves a huge hole in the Buffalo rotation).

"[The Mets] wanted me to get back to my old self," Carrasco said. "It was a combination of mechanical and release point issues. Ricky did a great job down there and really stuck with me. He kept me on to the basics and let me grow from there, didn't let my mind wander trying different things."

Mets manager Terry Collins confirmed Carrasco will be a "multiple-innings" guy out of the bullpen for now. Carrasco had made 151 big-league appearances the last four years with four teams, all but two in relief, since his last minor-league stint in 2008 at Charlotte.

"I've been a reliever for a large part of my career but it's good to know I can have success starting if they need that spot guy," Carrasco said. "I hadn't had to do the minor league thing in a while but it was good. I went down there and the Lord showed me a lot of things I need to do. You get comfortable here and you forget about that world down there. It makes you appreciate what you have here but I really believe I'm a big-league pitcher.

"I needed it though. To me, I was non-competitive. ... It was unfortunate I couldn't be me from the get-go for them and hopefully I've gotten back to that point."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Bisons begin four-game set with Clippers

It's Star Wars Night at Coca-Cola Field, as the Herd takes on the Columbus Clippers in the first game of a four-game series. The Bisons are wearing special Star Wars themed uniforms which will be auctioned off following the game. The Bisons are 1-3 so far on its current homestand after Friday night's loss to Indianapolis. Here is the starting lineup for tonight's game:

Luis Figueroa, ss
Michael Fisher, 3b
Fernando Martinez, rf
Val Pascucci, 1b
Zach Lutz, dh
Jesus Feliciano, cf
Luis Hernandez, 2b
Jason Botts, lf
Raul Chavez, c
Chris Schwinden, p

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Mets' offense getting the job done

PITTSBURGH -- Through all their injuries, all their bullpen blowups and all the chaos surrounding their ownership situation, the Mets can get back to .500 tonight if they beat the Pirates here in PNC Park. Manager Terry Collins is putting Jason Bay back in the lineup after two days off to clear his head from an 0-for-23 slump that has left the $66 million man with a .207 batting average, and is also giving Justin Turner a night off as he seems to be wearing down with everyday duty, batting just .195 in the last 10 games.

Even without David Wright and Ike Davis, without any contribution from Bay and suddenly without much from Turner, the Mets keep rolling along offensively. Here's some believe-it-or-not facts about the Amazins heading into tonight's game.

---Since May 22, the Mets have a .296 team batting average that leads the major leagues, a .299 average with runners in scoring position that's third and a .347 on-base percentage that's fifth.

---Since May 20, Daniel Murphy leads the big leagues with a .403 batting average and Jose Reyes, who turns 28 today, is second at .395. Reyes leads the big leagues with 89 hits and is just the third player in the last 80 years with 11 triples within his team's first 60 games. The others were Rod Carew of the 1977 Twins and Curtis Granderson of the 2007 Tigers.

---Since returning from the disabled list on May 27, Angel Pagan is batting .351. He was hitting .159 in his first 19 games before going on the DL.

---The Mets had a five-run inning for the third time in a week in Friday's 8-1 victory here.

The mini-controversy of the day -- there's always one when you're dealing with New York and the Big Apple's voracious media -- concerns Bay's absence the last two days. Former Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson criticized that approach in today's New York Post. Said Johnson: "I don't care if he's 0-for-50, you're not going to get him relaxed by taking him out of the lineup."

Responded Collins: "As soon as I showed up at the ballpark today, I was slapped in the face with Howard Johnson telling us we should play [Bay] and not bench him. I don’t really call it a benching. I would call it more of a time off kind of thing. I think the world of Howard Johnson, but he hasn’t got all the facts. So he should be careful what he actually says when he doesn’t have all the facts.”

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

A different kind of night for ex-Bisons

PITTSBURGH -- No David Wright, no Ike Davis, no Johan Santana. Where would the Mets be without ... Dillon Gee? 

Believe it. Gee improved to 7-0 -- a first for a Mets rookie starter -- with Friday's 8-1 win here over the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park.

"I can't say enough good things about the job he's done on that mound controlling his emotions, keeping himself in the game and just making pitches," said manager Terry Collins. "It's been really amazing."

Click below to hear Gee's postgame session with reporters.


Dillon Gee

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica rang up Collins from the clubhouse in Pittsburgh Friday afternoon for this column in which he marvels that the ramshackle Mets are just 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies. Writes Lupica: "As big a reason as any is the job the manager has done, because nobody in baseball has done a better one than he has so far."

As for the opposite of Gee, we bring you the case of Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner in 2007 for the Indians who's now going nowhere fast and quickly failing in his role of supposed ace for his skidding club. Carmona completely went haywire Friday night in Yankee Stadium, drilling Mark Teixeira high on the shoulder one pitch after a Curtis Granderson home run. The teams met near the mound, with Joe Girardi and Manny Acta having to be separated.

Here's the comments of Acta in the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the 11-7 loss. Here's Teixeira and Girardi, among others, in the Daily News. 

You can bet the Yankees will get their pound of flesh sometime this weekend and whichever Cleveland player gets drilled can thank Carmona, he of the 3-8 record and 5.71 ERA. Didn't Carmona pay any attention to what went on the last three days with the Red Sox and figure the Yankees were going to say they've had enough?

As for today's ex-Bison hurlers, R.A. Dickey meets the Pirates here tonight at 7 on SNY, Bartolo Colon goes for the Yankees against the Indians at 1 on YES and Cliff Lee goes for the Phillies against the Cubs.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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