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Familiar face in Durham lineup for opener vs. Herd in final home series before break

When you're talking about the best Bisons hitters during the New York Mets' four-year run here, the only real discussion points have to be Valentino Pascucci for power and Jesus Feliciano for contact and average.

Feliciano compiled 371 hits -- second in the modern era -- and a .304 average that ranks fifth while playing with the Herd the last three years. He signed a minor-league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays over the winter and is back in town tonight with the Durham Bulls.

Feliciano is batting .257 for a Durham team that is 38-45 and third in the South Division, nine games out of first. The Bulls endured a 6-18 start and franchise-record 13-game losing streak but have played over. 500 ball for the last two months. Feliciano is in his customary left field slot and batting No. 3 for Durham.

The Bisons are going with Mark Cohoon on the mound and he got drubbed for eight runs by the Bulls Monday in a 14-10 Buffalo loss that completed the Bulls' four-game sweep. Jenrry Mejia is scheduled to make another relief outing tonight, sure to be watched closely by the front office in New York. Jordany Valdespin is getting his first start in center field here since April.

This is Buffalo's final series before it hosts the Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby (July 9) and All-Star Game (July 11).

The Bisons' lineup:

Jordany Valdespin, cf
Josh Rodriguez, ss
Fred Lewis, lf
Josh Satin, 1b
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Matt Tuiasosopo, rf
Brad Emaus, 2b
Rob Johnson, c
Oswaldo Navarro,3b
---
Mark Cohoon, p

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

Harvey on the hill as Herd hopes to continue to stem June swoon in series finale vs. Bats

The Bisons have bounced back from their seven-game losing streak to win two straight heading into tonight's series finale against Louisville. And it's a good thing too. With two games left in June, the Herd needs to win at least one to avoid its first 20-loss month since August, 1994.

The Bisons are 9-18 in June and have already assured their worst June performance ever (they went 12-17 in the month in 2011, 2010, 1999 and 1994). But somehow, they're still only six games out of first place in the IL North.

IL all-star Matt Harvey (6-3) goes tonight for Buffalo, looking for his fourth straight strong outing. Harvey is 1-1, 3.00 in his last three with 23 strikeouts and six walks in 18 innings. He leads the team in wins, ERA (3.69) and strikeouts (87 in 85 1/3 innings). With seven Ks tonight, in fact, he could pass Columbus Corey Kluber for the IL lead.

Here's the Bisons' lineup tonight:

Matt den Dekker, cf
Josh Rodriguez, ss
Josh Satin, 1b
Valentino Pascucci, rf
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
Brad Emaus, 2b
Rob Johnson, c
Oswaldo Navarro, 3b
Matt Harvey, p

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

Kaleta, Polian, prizes added to Triple-A HR Derby

The Bisons' latest update is that there are fewer than 4,000 tickets remaining for the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 and less than 5,000 left for the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 9. The team has made several significant announcements about the Derby today:

---The Derby will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet at 7:30 p.m. and in several markets nationally, including virtually all of Upstate and Central New York. Bisons voices Ben Wagner and Duke McGuire will have the call (The game itself remains an MLB Network broadcast).

---Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta and former Bills general manager Bill Polian have been added to the lineup for the Celebrity Home Run Derby, which will also be held on July 9. The lineup for the Triple-A players from the International League and Pacific Coast League will be announced Tuesday; Buffalo's Valentino Pascucci is expected to be on the IL squad.

---The All-Stars will have 32 different targets or banners to shoot for, with each one representing a prize to be won by one fan, a section of fans or even every fan in attendance. 

Six-foot circular targets will be placed throughout the outfield, with the bulk of the signs being hung on the 40-foot screen beyond left field. Existing ballpark signage will also represent prizes. The grand prize is a two-year lease to a 2012 Lincoln MKZ, supplied by Towne Ford Automotive, which will be awarded if the Towne Ford sign in center field is hit.

---Because of Coca-Cola Field's lack of seating areas in home run country behind left and center field, a lucky seat winner will be announced after every home run to win an official 2012 Triple-A All-Star Game baseball.

Fans can purchase tickets to both events (Derby $15, All-Star Game $25) on Bisons.com or by calling (716) 843-4373. There is also a limited number of Buffalo News All-Star Four-Packs remaining. The package includes four tickets (Sections 123, 125, 126, 128), four hot dogs, four Coca-Colas and 15 percent off at Bisons gift shops at the All-Star Game for $99.

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

You want butter on that great catch, kid?

Thursday night's Padres-Astros game in Houston, a 7-3 San Diego victory, had three notable components: Alexei Amarista's grand slam to cap a six-run ninth inning, the Padres wiping out a 119-game losing streak when trailing after eight, and Andrew Cashner's bid for a no-hitter getting lost in the seventh (and the Padres, remember, have never thrown once since they were born in 1969).

But it's also getting plenty of notice from MLB Network, Deadspin and others for this video gem -- a kid in the box seats behind home plate made what appeared to be a routine catch of a foul pop. But look closely and see what he used to corral the ball.

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

McHugh makes home debut for Bisons

Righty Collin McHugh makes his Coca-Cola Field debut tonight as the Buffalo Bisons host Louisville. McHugh was promoted from Double-A Binghmaton during the Herd's latest road trip. He made his Triple A debut on the road, getting tagged for the loss at Norfolk on June 18 when he gave up four earned runs on five hits in five innings with four walks and six strikeouts. WIth the Bisons he is 0-2 with an 8.10 earned run average.

He made 12 starts with the B-Mets where he went 5-5 with a 2.41 earned run average, striking out 65 and walking 17.

As a side note, McHugh is totally worth following on Twitter. (His handle is @Collin_McHugh). From his Twitter feed today:

"The only thing I'm worried about with this Supreme Court ruling is if we still get free lollipops at the doctor...if not, it's a dealbreaker"

Today's Bisons' starting lineup:

Matt den Dekker -- CF
Jordany Valdespin -- 2B
Josh Satin -- 1B
Fred Lewis -- LF
Valentino Pascucci -- RF
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Lucas May -- C
Oswaldo Navarro -- 3B
Collin McHugh -- P

--- Amy Moritz 

Former Bisons slugger Hessman heads PCL roster for Triple-A All-Star Game

Former Bison Mike Hessman, who tortured the Herd and the fences at Coca-Cola Field while playing for the Richmond Braves in the early 2000s and then starred for Buffalo in 2010, is among the headline names elected to the Pacific Coast League team today for the July 11 Triple-A All-Star Game.

Hessman, the first baseman, is batting .281 with a PCL-leading 23 homers and 50 RBIs for the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the top affiliate of the Houston Astros. He hit .274 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs in just 64 games for the Bisons in 2010, in a season limited by injuries and a 32-game callup to the New York Mets. Hessman, 34, played last year in Japan.

As previously announced, the manager for the PCL will be Las Vegas' Marty Brown -- who managed the Bisons from 2003-05 and led Buffalo to the 2004 Governors' Cup championship. Brown's starting infield will include Hessman,  two top Arizona prospects from Reno in second baseman Jake Elmore (PCL-high .390 batting average) and third baseman Ryan Wheeler (PCL-leading 72 RBIs), and Las Vegas shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, a top Toronto prospect. 

The starting outfield consists of Reno’s Adam Eaton (.388), Colorado Springs' Andrew Brown and 21-year-old Wil Myers of Omaha (Kansas City), who has 12 homers, 35 RBIs and a .638 slugging percentage in 40 games since getting promoted from Double-A.

The PCL starting pitcher will be 27-year-old right-hander Graham Godfrey of the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland), who is 7-0 with perfect 7-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 11 starts after going 14-3 for the Cats last year. Oddly enough, however, Godfrey is just 1-6 in eight starts with Oakland the last two years, including 0-4, 6.43 this season in five outings.

Also elected were catcher Tim Federowicz and relief pitcher Josh Wall of Albuquerque, designated hitter Luis Jimenez of Tacoma, and starting pitcher Eric Hacker and relief pitcher Heath Hembree of Fresno. The most well-known reserve is Reno reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, who has spent time with the New York Yankees. The official PCL release with the entire roster is here. Joining Brown on the PCL staff are two former Bisons: Hitting coach Russ Morman of Fresno and pitching coach Blaise Ilsley of Memphis.

Click here for today's story on the International League team, which features Bisons Matt Harvey, Valentino Pascucci and Fernando Cabrera. 

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

Hear from Harvey on Triple-A all-star nod

Bisons pitcher Matt Harvey is joining teammates Fernando Cabrera and Valentino Pascucci at the Triple-A All-Star Game here July 11 and the MLB Network broadcast is sure to get some attention in New York, where Mets fans have a voracious appetite for any information about the Amazins' No. 1 draft pick in 2010.

Click below to hear Harvey's chat today with reporters.


Matt Harvey

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

Herd's Harvey, Cabrera, Pascucci named to IL all-star team; PawSox, Charlotte lead league with four


Closer Fernando Cabrera was elected as a starter while pitcher Matt Harvey and outfielder/designated hitter Valentino Pascucci were selected as reserves today as the International League announced its roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game July 11 in Coca-Cola Field.

The three selections are the most for the Bisons since they sent four players (Ryan Garko, Jake Gautreau, Jeff Liefer and Ernie Young) and manager Marty Brown to the 2005 game in Sacramento.

Cabrera leads the IL with 15 saves and didn't blow an opportunity until Tuesday's loss to Louisville. He's 2-3 with a 4.04 earned run average. He was named to the '05 game as well but did not play because of a promotion to Cleveland.

"It's always a good feeling to be an all-star," Cabrera said before today's game against Louisville. "It means I did something good on the season so far to be recognized. There's plenty of players who can be in the all-star game but to get chosen to represent the team is a good feeling."

Harvey, the parent New York Mets' top prospect on the Buffalo roster, is 6-3, 3.69 and leads the team in wins, ERA and strikeouts (87) in his first season in Triple-A. He's one of four IL pitchers to make 16 starts thus far.

"This being my first year in Triple-A and only my second year in pro ball, this is a huge honor for me," Harvey said. "After starting off a little slow, getting back into it and having a lot better last couple starts has been a huge positive for me."

Pascucci is only batting .238 but leads the Bisons in home runs (13), RBIs (45), walks (57) and on-base percentage (.375). He ranks eight in the IL in homers and tied for seventh in RBIs. Pascucci has experience as a hometown player, as he homered and drove in two runs for the Pacific Coast League in 2007 in Albuquerque while representing the hometown Isotopes.

"Anytime you can represent your hometown team, play in your home city and play in front of your home crowd, it's always a lot of fun," Pascucci said. "I'm looking forward to the game and having a couple of the other guys with me."

Pawtucket and Charlotte had four players named to the team while the Bisons and Indianapolis had three. All four Pawsox -- catcher Ryan Lavarnway, shortstop Pedro Ciriaco, DH Mauro Gomez and starting pitcher Justin Germano -- were elected in the combined balloting of fans, media and club officials.

The remaining IL starters are Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia, Columbus second baseman Cord Phelps, Charlotte third baseman Dan Johnson, outfielders Corey Brown (Syracuse), Greg Golson (Charlotte) and Matt LaPorta (Columbus), Lehigh Valley pitcher (Tyler Cloyd) and Toledo reliever Chris Bootcheck. The reserves include Louisville catcher Dioner Navarro, a major-league all-star in 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Pacific Coast League roster will be announced Thursday.

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

 

Herd losing streak reaches seven

The Buffalo Bisons need a win. Any kind of win. While manager Wally Backman said the club doesn't have it's back against the wall just yet, the Herd could use anything to stop the tailspin. After losing, 5-3, to Lousiville last night, the Bisons extended their losing streak to seven games. That's the longest losing streak since the team lost seven straight from from June 7 ro 13 in 2010.

The Herd hosts Louisville for a 1 p.m. game today. Lefty Garrett Olson takes the mound for his 16th start. He last start was a no-decision in Norfolk whe he gave up one earned run in five innings pitched.

Today's Bison's lineup:

Matt den Dekker -- CF
Jordany Valdespin -- 2B
Josh Satin -- 1B
Fred Lewis -- LF
Valentino Pascucci -- RF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Rob Johnson -- C
Garrett Olson -- P

--- Amy Moritz 

Bisons return home

The Buffalo Bisons hope to get a fresh start tonight when they host the Louisville Bats at Coca-Cola Field. The Herd went 1-7 on its latest road trip, dropping the last six. That's on the heels of a 2-6 home stand, making the Bisons just 3-13 in their last 16 games. On the road trip, the Herd had 11 transactions, ending with the addition of Jordany Valdespin today.

Josh Satin has a five-game hit streak. Since June 21 he has hit .647 (11-17) and has 19 multi-hit games this season.

Righty Jeurys Familia (5-4, 5.00 ERA) takes the mound today. He last outing was a loss in Norfolk, where he gave up five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched. 

Tonight's Bison lineup:

Matt den Dekker -- CF
Jordany Valdespin -- 2B
Josh Satin -- 1B
Fred Lewis -- LF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Raul Reyes -- RF
Josh Rodriguez -- SS
Lucas May -- C
Jeurys Familia -- P

--- Amy Moritz 

It's a major alphabet soup night in the Big Apple: R.A. vs. CC on ESPN in Subway Series finale

PITTSBURGH -- On the way home from the NHL Draft, I've taken a little detour to PNC Park for today's Pirates-Tigers game, with the upstart Bucs going for a sweep while facing Detroit ace Justin Verlander. He threw 8 1/3 no-hit innings against the Pirates May 18 in Detroit before finishing with a one-hit shutout.

RAIt starts at 1:35 so there should be plenty of time for me to get home and in front of my TV by 8:05 for the big game of the day: The Mets and Yankees from Citi Field with a mega pitching matchup of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (left) vs. CC Sabathia.

Dickey, the first cut sent by the Mets to the Bisons out of spring training in 2010, has become one of the biggest stories in the game in 2012. He's 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA but those are hardly the only numbers people are talking about.

----Dickey has thrown 42 2/3 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

---He's on a streak of back-to-back one-hitters, the first in baseball since 1988 and in the National League since 1944.

---In fact, according to Elias, Dickey is the first pitcher in history to throw five straight games with no earned runs and at least five strikeouts in each.

Pretty incredible timing for Dickey to release his autobiography, don't you think? He's unbeaten with a 1.02 ERA since doing an interview with Jerry Sullivan on the book that included plenty of memories of his "Imperfect Perfect Game" with the Bisons vs. Durham on April 29, 2010 (OK, so the world isn't aware of those numbers).

The New York media, of course, is going wild this weekend. The Mets had Dickey do a press conference Friday so they could allow him to get ready for the start as media requests are getting turned down a dozen at time for him these days.

In the Daily News, Mike Lupica says Dickey's run is the most electrifying for a Met since Doc Gooden's sensational summer of 1985. 

Also in the Daily News, Bob Raissman says old friend Terry Collins is certainly beating Joe Girardi in the battle of the press conferences. Said Raissman, "The Mets have not seen a manager/salesman such as this since the days of Casey Stengel, a zany cat who spoke his own language." Wow.

(In the battle of wits, I don't know. Collins needed to yank Chris Young for lefty Tim Byrdak yesterday but left him in and Raul Ibanez cracked a game-tying three-run homer in the seventh inning.)

In the Post, Ken Davidoff shows how CC and R.A. come from different sides of the tracks, one a first-round bonus baby and the other a longtime journeyman. And great friend of the blog Mike Vaccaro thinks back to a February chat with Collins in Florida and gives it up to him for having the Ya Gotta Believe attitude no one did about the Mets.

Great stuff by the New York media. Bet it will be for a game to match the hype.

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

Dickey photo: Getty Images

Bisons voice Wagner to lead Triple-A All-Star radio coverage; fan balloting ends Friday

Bisons radio/TV voice Ben Wagner has been named one of the two broadcasters for the radio network that will broadcast the Triple-A All-Star Game July 11 in Coca-Cola Field. Wagner, in his sixth season with the Herd, is carving out a Hall of Fame career of his own in the same vein as predecessors Jim Rosenhaus and Pete Weber and current analyst Duke McGuire. His voice is heard on WWKB Radio as well as the Time Warner Cable broadcasts, which have been picked up over the years by SNY and Versus.

Wagner will be joined by Fresno voice Doug Greenwald, who is in his 10th season with the Grizzlies and has filled in on games both in spring training and the regular season for the parent San Francisco Giants.

Fan balloting for the game ends Friday and the Bisons continue to be filling up the leaderboards. Starting pitcher Matt Harvey and closer Fernando Cabrera are both second in their categories and two get voted in (the fan balloting counts for one-third of the vote with media and club officials getting the rest). Outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo is third and three get in.

Gone-to-New-York shortstop Omar Quintanilla continues to lead at shortstop and he might be back soon once Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno finished rehab (and if Quintanilla can clear waivers). Designated hitter Val Pascucci is second to Toledo's Brad Eldred in what the league is calling the closest vote. Vinny Rottino and Fred Lewis of the Herd are 4-5 among outfielders while injured Zach Lutz is second at third base.

In other all-star news:

---The MLB Network television broadcast, widely panned last year when "Intentional Talk" hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar talked about everything but the game in Salt Lake City, will have a much better crew this year. Studio host Paul Severino, who has done play by play in the Arizona Fall League, will call the action along with Jonathan Mayo, the draft and prospect expert for MLB.com. The sideline reporter will be longtime ABC/ESPN reporter Samantha Ryan.

---Named as umpires are Mark Lollo (IL-home), Shaun Francis (PCL-1st), Toby Basner (IL-2nd) and Clint Fagan (PCL-3rd).

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

Bill Murray, Hall of Famer

It's pretty common knowledge that Bill Murray is a Cubs fan. What you might not know is that he is a co-owner and Director of Fun for the Charleston RiverDogs, a New York Yankees affiliate in the South Atlantic League.

With Yankees GM Brian Cashman on hand, the Sally League on Tuesday inducted Murray into its Hall of Fame. In the video below (hat tip to OpenCulture.com), Murray gives his induction speech, opening with a description of how mesmerizing it was for him to first walk into Wrigley Field as a youngster.

--Greg Connors

Audio: Harrington on Clemens' reputation, Hall of Fame prospects

A federal jury today acquitted Roger Clemens of perjury, stemming from charges he lied to Congress while denying using steroids.

The News' Mike Harrington takes a look at Clemens' Hall of Fame chances and the damage done to his reputation:


Download audio

Bisons look to avoid sweep in finale vs. Pawsox

The Bisons have lost the first three games of their series vs. Pawtucket and today's Father's Day game is their last chance on what's been a dreary homestand. Buffalo is 2-5 on the stand and has slipped seven games back in the IL North.

The starters today are Buffalo's Garrett Olson and Pawtucket's Brandon Duckworth but the bullpens will get attention too as converted starters Jenrry Mejia of the Herd and Daniel Bard of the Pawsox are both scheduled to throw in the game. Bard went two scoreless innings Thursday for his best outing since coming down from Boston and Mejia got through one inning Friday in his first relief outing after finishing his work in the Buffalo rotation.

The Bisons hit the halfway mark for the season Tuesday in Norfolk and reach it at home today (they're 19-16 here). A big difference in the race right now is the record within the IL North: Pawtucket is 21-8 while the Bisons are just 19-18.

The rehabbers are still here, with Boston's Cody Ross leading off in right field and New York's Ronny Cedeno batting second at shortstop for Buffalo. 

Here's today's lineup for the Herd:

Corey Wimberly, dh
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Matt den Dekker, cf
Valentino Pascucci, 1b
Fred Lewis, lf
Josh Satin, 2b
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Raul Reyes, rf
Lucas May, c
---
Garrett Olson, p

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

Bisons look for response to Backman's talk

Wally Backman had a few choice words, and probably more than a few, for the Bisons last night after their 8-3 loss against Pawtucket. We'll see tonight what kind of impact they'll have in game three of this series.

Backman has retooled the lineup with Corey Wimberly back in the leadoff slot, although still limited to DH duties due to his sore elbow. Matt den Dekker has been moved down to third and Fred Lewis is fifth to give some protection to cleanup man Valentino Pascucci.

Matt Tuiasosopo -- who is in an 0-for-26 slump that includes 0 for 22 on this homestand -- has been dropped to seventh. His average has dropped from .301 to .241 in the last 23 days. Ouch.

The leadoff hitter tonight for Pawtucket is Boston outfielder Cody Ross, who will serve as the DH. He will be making his first appearance on injury rehab since suffering a broken bone in his foot on May 19. Ross was the MVP of the 2010 NLCS for the Giants against Philadelphia. He's batting .271 with eight homers and 28 RBIs for Boston this year.

Jeurys Familia (5-3) starts for Buffalo trying to take over the team victory lead and wipe out the memory of the five-run fifth in the rain that cost him a 5-4 loss here Monday against Norfolk in a rain-shortened affair.

The Pawtucket starting pitcher is former Kansas City prospect Billy Buckner. And before you ask, the answer is no. He's not related to Boston's infamous 1986 World Series goat.

Here's the Bisons' lineup tonight:

Corey Wimberly, dh
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Matt den Dekker, cf
Valentino Pascucci, rf
Fred Lewis, lf
Josh Satin, 1b
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Rob Johnson, c
Brad Emaus, 2b
---
Jeurys Familia, p

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

Bisons walking tightrope in IL North (sorry)

OK, so we went for the pun in the headline, given all the hullabaloo going on tonight in Niagara Falls that we'll have wall-to-wall coverage of elsewhere on the site.

(An aside -- I'm with columnist Rod Watson's recent writing on Wallenda: What's the point? Now, back to baseball).

The Bisons and PawSox are playing game two of their four-game set tonight and this is a big series for Buffalo. They're five games back after last night's 5-0 defeat and two of the next three wins would certainly be a big help to keep this club in the race for real. 

It's been a tough June so far. The Bisons are 6-7, batting just .218 and averaging just three runs per game. The team's top two current RBI men, Valentino Pascucci and Matt Tuiasosopo, are just 14 for 89 this month (.157) and it's tough to win when the middle of your order struggles like that.

Dylan Owen is on the mound for Buffalo tonight. He'll have some major-league defense behind him as Justin Turner is at second and Ronny Cedeno at short, both on injury rehab. Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Matt den Dekker, cf
Ronny Cedeno, ss
Justin Turner, 2b
Fred Lewis, lf
Josh Satin, 1b
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Lucas May, c
Raul Reyes, rf
---
Dylan Owen, p

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

Harvey to hill for Herd in opener vs. Pawsox

The Bisons haven't been in too many big series in their four years as a Mets affiliate but they're going to be in one this weekend. Tonight's game against Pawtucket is the opener of a four-game set against the leaders of the IL North.

The Bisons are third, four games behind the Pawsox in the division. A sweep, of course, could pull them even. A sweep against them could produce an eight-game deficit that would leave them in an uphill climb the rest of the way.

Matt Harvey (5-2, 3.88) will start for the Bisons and he's winless in his last three starts, a first for him this year in Triple-A. Still, he's hardly been bad in those starts with a 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings. The real issue has been an uncharacteristic 11 walks in that span.

Mets infielder Justin Turner, who had a 6-hit game for the Bisons in the 2010 season finale at Rochester, is playing shortstop tonight in the opening game of his injury rehab assignment. Ronny Cedeno is scheduled to be here tomorrow night.

Two quick items on the Pawsox: Bedraggled Boston pitcher Daniel Bard is not scheduled to start in this series (although I assume we'll see him in relief), and Boston OF Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP with the Giants, starts a rehab assignment here tomorrow.

Here's tonight's Bisons lineup:

Matt den Dekker, cf
Justin Turner, ss
Fred Lewis, lf
Josh Satin, 1b
Valentino Pascucci, dh
Matt Tuiasosopo, 3b
Rob Johnson, c
Raul Reyes, rf
Brad Emaus, 2b
---
Matt Harvey, p

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

More late-night history: Cain perfectly able against Astros

I was in Toronto yesterday to see Stephen Strasburg toy with the Blue Jays for six innings and that turned out to be well down the list of pitching performances Wednesday. Elsewhere, Boston's Felix Doubront had a no-hitter for six innings in Miami, Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey threw a one-hitter at Tampa Bay.

It was nearly 11:30 and just before I clicked off the TV, I checked the West Coast scores. I was looking at Dodgers-Angels but noticed what was going on in San Francisco. And I was hooked in. Good thing too. On the shores of McCovey Cove, Giants pitcher Matt Cain reeled in a big one at AT&T Park -- the 22nd perfect game in MLB history. It was a 14-strikeout game in a 10-0 win over the Astros.

MLB.com has some great stat nuggets from the Cain and Dickey starts. And here's the site's look at all 27 outs.

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

Nats have arrived but Strasburg decision looms large as season presses forward

TORONTO -- Forget about the Washington Nationals being a nice looking young team on the rise with a good future. They have arrived. And that's especially true when you consider the National League East is housing two major disappointments in Miami and Philadelphia and two other teams (Atlanta and the Mets) that raise plenty of doubts.

The Nats are 38-23 after Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Blue Jays. They have baseball's second-best record behind the Dodgers and just completed a 6-0 road trip for the first time since 1988 when they were in Montreal. They are 15 games over .500 for the first time since 2005.

StrasStephen Strasburg (left) continues to simply be a stud. He's 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA, he leads MLB with 100 strikeouts and a ridiculous average of 12.9 per nine innings. But he's also coming off Tommy John surgery and the team is intent on shutting him down this year after he throws around 160 innings. He's thrown 77 after the six he went Wednesday (two runs on five hits, eight strikeouts, one walk), so that means he's nearly halfway there already!

GM Mike Rizzo reaffirmed the Strasburg plan is standings be damned in what he termed his last interview on the subject Wednesday with the New York Post.

Davey Johnson took Strasburg out after six innings Wednesday because his pitcher cut his middle finger while trimming a nail. The manager admitted Strasburg "was fighting tooth and nail not to come out of the ballgame."

Imagine what it's going to be like when they tell him he's calling it a season. When I asked Strasburg how much the decision is looming over him now that he's basically at his halfway mark just 61 games into the season, it was clear he's struggling at the thought of sitting through crucial games in September and October.

"I try not to think about it but with the direction that we're going and everything, it makes it even harder not to think about it," Strasburg said. "I can't control that. Hopefully things can change and we get to where we want to be and somehow I'm part of it still."

Strasburg and fellow phenom Bryce Harper get tons of pub but let's not forget the team ERA is 2.94 and no team has finished under 3.00 since the 1989 Dodgers. The Nats could use another bat, unless third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.239) decides he's going to wake up. They have great prospects (first baseman Tyler Moore had the first two home runs and the first five RBIs of his career Wednesday) and a strong bullpen.

They can win in October. But let's see first how they do this weekend when the Yankees come to town. 

"They're in first place, we're in first place," said Johnson. "Even with the off day, I don't think you'll have to get the guys up. It's going to be exciting."

Be sure to see plenty more of my thoughts on Strasburg and the Nats' version of The Decision in Thursday's sports section.

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

Photo: Strasburg works Wednesday against the Jays/Getty Images

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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