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
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.
---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.
---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
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.''
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.
---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
---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
---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.
---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
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.
(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.
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
Former 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).
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
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."
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
PITTSBURGH -- I've had quite a reunion the last couple hours in picturesque PNC Park (click pic to see press box view at left), visiting with several Mets with Buffalo connections. Got a chance to pop into manager Terry Collins' office before his daily briefing with beat reporters and he's still as enthusiastic and energetic as he was the first time I met him in 1989.
Had a great chat with Mets bench coach and former Herd manager Ken Oberkfell, who's thrilled to make it back to the big leagues as a coach after a long career as a player. Visited in the dugout with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who starts here Saturday and joked that I had to make the drive here to "see the Bisons". One of them, Dillon Gee, tries to improve his record to 7-0 tonight in the series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates (7 p.m. at SNY).
The big subject of the day, however, is Lucas Duda. He's back with the big club, batting sixth and playing left field. Duda is 2-20 in 10 games with the Mets this year but hit .302 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 38 games in Buffalo this year -- including a .413 clip since coming off the disabled list May 28 after a back strain.
"Anytime you get an opportunity like this, you want to make the most of it and the last couple times I really haven't made the most of it," Duda said before the game. "If you play good in the minors, in Triple-A, I think they might throw you a bone and give you another shot.
"The last couple times I've been up, I haven't been too confident in myself. Hopefully now that I've been up and down for a little bit, I can build on that and gain some confidence and be myself."
With struggling Jason Bay getting his second straight night off, Duda figures to get a chance for a few days in the outfield and perhaps first base.
"I want to see the swings I know he has," Collins said. "I want to see that aggressive, in-balance, strong swing. I'm not asking him to hit homers. I know from the other times he's been here, because I've seen him, that there's a better swing in there and I want to see him use that lower body to drive some balls.
"There can't be a better time. He's red hot and let's see what he can do. ... We all know if this guy swings the bat like he's capable of, he will stay. The ceiling on this guy offensively is very, very high."
Among the Buffalo contingent, tonight's Mets lineup features Justin Turner batting second and playing third base, Duda in left, Josh Thole catching and batting seventh and Ruben Tejeda playing second and batting eighth.
Here's Duda's complete session with the media today:
PITTSBURGH -- Greetings from the Steel City, where I'll spend the weekend checking in on several old friends as the Mets and Pirates meet at PNC Park -- which is about as good as it gets in the big leagues for ballparks.
Look for plenty of quips from Terry Collins and Ken Oberkfell and I'm planning chats with the likes of Justin Turner and Dillon Gee, who is starting tonight's series opener and looking to become the first rookie in franchise history to open a season 7-0. Pretty heady stuff for the guy who won 13 games in Buffalo last year and was the team's Opening Day starter this season.
As discussed in this space last night, the Mets called up Lucas Duda today from the Bisons (no, I didn't drive him down with me!). Richly deserved. Other than Jeff Manto's outbursts in 1997 and 1998, I have never seen anyone as hot as Duda has been the last two weeks in Buffalo.
I'm also looking forward to taking a look at the Pirates, who are battling to finish at .500 for the first time since 1992 (or since Sid Bream slid home). New manager Clint Hurdle has been in the World Series twice in the last four years (as manager of the '07 Rockies and hitting coach of last year's Rangers) and is definitely having an impact.
The Bisons, meanwhile, close their series with Indianapolis tonight at 7:30 (Rodney McKissic will be at the helm at Coca-Cola Field) before Columbus comes to town Saturday night.
Jason Bay is in an 0-for-23 slump and has been given a couple days off by Terry Collins to get his head and mechanics together. Lucas Duda (right) is so hot in Buffalo that even his outs are hard-hit and pop-ups seem to reach to the 38th floor of the HSBC Center. So it makes sense that Duda's return to New York could be imminent.
Duda, the report said, could also play at first base with Daniel Murphy switching over at third. Duda, remember, made a sensational play at first in the sixth inning Tuesday night with D.J. Carrasco throwing a no-hitter but Carrasco did not get to first base to cover the bag and lost his no-no.
In 14 games since returning from the disabled list on May 28, Duda is 19-46 (.413) with four doubles, seven homers, nine walks and 15 RBIs. You don't stay in Triple-A too long with those numbers.
Update: The Bisons PR office confirmed that the Mets had called up Duda on Friday. This will be Duda's third stint with the Mets this season.
---Mike Harrington (www.twitter.com/bnharrington)
Photo: Duda homers in the fourth inning Thursday/Mark Mulville-Buffalo News
The Bisons had their biggest crowd of the season in Coca-Cola Field Thursday and a gathering that included more than 10,000 children saw the Herd's biggest offensive output of the season in a 15-2 rout of Indianapolis.
---They saw another home run from outfielder Lucas Duda. In 14 games since returning from the disabled list on May 28, Duda is 19-46 (.413), four doubles, seven homers, nine walks, 15 RBIs.
Manager Tim Teufel on Duda: "He's dangerous. It's great to see him work through his swing. He was kind of struggling at the beginning of the year and now he's locked in and really swinging well. He looks like a very polished hitter right now."
---The Bisons have played five morning games this season, going 3-2 in them. An odd scheduling quirk to say the least, especially when you consider the bizarre luck to run into four of them on the road in four different cities.
IF Luis Hernandez on all the early starts: "It was a little tough for us with all the early games but it's part of the job. You have to come every day whether it's a day game or a night game. The good point here was to jump right in on the scoreboard right away. It was fun to see kids coming and enjoy the game. You pray nobody gets hit with a foul ball but it's nice to see them enjoying it, get out of school for a little bit and watch a sport."
---Hernandez is 6 for 12 in the last three games to get his average over .200 to .221. That run comes after starting the month 1 for 17. He had a career-high five RBIs Thursday, including a grand slam off Indy disaster pitcher Shelby Ford.
Hernandez on his big day: "I knew it was a position player throwing but it was a good feeling to have, especially the way I'm hitting right now. I'm getting confident at home plate so that's good for me. I knew he was going to throw everything fastballs to me. I just tried to get a base hit and the grand slam happened."
---Just like the parent Pittsburgh Pirates, Indianapolis is on a run back to .500. The Indians were once 11-23. They could have pulled even at 31-31 had they won Thursday. Instead, they're now 30-32.
---Starting tomorrow, all Friday games are now 7:30 starts the rest of the season to accommodate darkness for the postgame fireworks shows.
It's the annual School Kids Day game in Coca-Cola Field as the Bisons meet the Indianapolis Indians before at least 10,000 children with plenty of Spongebob Squarepants music likely to be rocking the house.
Maybe the kids can change the Bisons' fortune. The Herd has dropped five straight overall and the first two games in this series. Indy, meanwhile, is trying to climb to .500. With a win today, the Indians would be 31-31 -- a big accomplishment considering they were once 11-23.
Here's today's Buffalo lineup:
Luis Figueroa, ss Michael Fisher, 3b Lucas Duda, lf Fernando Martinez, rf Valentino Pascucci, 1b Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf Luis Hernandez, 2b Raul Chavez, c Pat Misch, p
I was looking forward to seeing Indianapolis pitcher Brad Lincoln work tonight against the Bisons, but the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 1 pick in 2006 and the fourth overall that season is a scratch due to a sore neck.
Lincoln, who got a $2.75 million bonus but didn't make his big-league debut until last season, is just 5-5 with a 4.34 ERA but pitched seven shutout innings against Buffalo in Indy on May 18. Lincoln was taken one pick behind Evan Longoria and ahead of fellow first-round names such as Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Kyle Drabek, Daniel Bard, Joba Chamberlain and Chris Perez.
Lefty Garrett Olson will make a spot start tonight for Lincoln. Bad new for the Bisons: They're just 5-13 this year against left-handed starters. D.J. Carrasco (2-3) goes for Buffalo.
The Bisons are just 1-4 against Indy this year and have been outscored, 33-13, in the five games. Oddly enough, the Herd is 54-54 against Indy since the teams left the American Association and joined the International League together in 1998.
Here's tonight's Buffalo lineup:
Luis Figueroa, ss Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf Lucas Duda, 1b Jason Botts, lf Fernando Martinez, rf Michael Fisher, 3b Luis Hernandez, 2b Mike Nickeas, c D.J. Carrasco, p
An eight-game homestand starts in just about a half hour at the downtown ballpark as the Buffalo Bisons are back home. They'll kick off a four-game set with the Indianapolis Indians at 7:05 p.m. It's perfect baseball weather here at Coca-Cola Field, with just a gentle breeze and temperatures in the 70s.
For the Bisons, right-hander Josh Stinson will oppose southpaw Justin Wilson on the mound. Stinson is 3-4 with a 5.04 earned-run average. The Bisons wrapped up a 3-5 road trip last night and are 26-33 on the season, 11 games out in the International League North.
Stinson, who has won his last two decisions, will look to help reverse that tonight against the Indians. He's 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA at home this year.
At the plate, Valentino Pascucci has driven in 29 runs for the Herd since May 10, leading the IL. Pascucci is hitting .317 with eight doubles, five homers and 12 runs during that 26-game stretch. He has a team-high 34 RBIs.
The Bisons' bullpen has been better of late and hard-throwing Manny Acosta is a big reason. Acosta, the native of Panama, got the call to New York today as the Mets have returned Mike O'Connor to Buffalo.
Acosta has recovered from a couple of disastrous April outings to get on a quite a run for himself with the Herd. He's 1-0 with four saves and a 1.77 ERA in 20 games this season and has 27 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. But he also has 17 walks and that's been a problem.
Of late, however, Acosta has posted an 0.64 ERA over his last 13 appearances, allowing just one run in 14 1/3 innings.
O'Connor had a great season in Buffalo last year (5-2, 2.67, 6 saves in 51 games) and was off to a decent start this year (2-1, 3.31 in 10 games) before going to New York (0-1, 2.70 in 9 games).
The Bisons are in Gwinnett tonight to open a four-game series against the Braves.
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 15 World Series -- including every pitch of the Fall Classic 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.
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.