By Mike Harrington
The Bisons hit the halfway mark of their season today at 1 with a matinee in Coca-Cola Field against the Gwinnett Braves, and the first year of the Toronto Blue Jays affiliation has been a success so far off the field but a clear mixed bag on it. A campaign that couldn't have started any better is clearly at a crossroads with the Bisons at 36-35 after a 15-5 start.
There will definitely be a boost this weekend by the presence of Jose Reyes but manager Marty Brown's club continues to be in a malaise that it needs to shake quickly if the Bisons' eight-year playoff drought is to end. The Bisons have dropped seven of nine and have slipped a season-high seven games out of first place. On May 5, they had a three-game lead in the IL North, so that's a 10-game swing in six weeks!
Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to Gwinnett goes down in the completely inexcusable category. You cannot blow a 4-0 lead at home to the worst team in the league. Just can't. Anthony Gose continues to struggle here. Gose's braincramp on the game-winning single by Gwinnett's Todd Cunningham had manager Marty Brown comparing him to Brandon Phillips, circa 2003.
As in an incredibly gifted talent playing with an undeserved swagger. Gose simply fell asleep in center field on the play, first dropping the ball and then not getting it back to the infield in time. The video doesn't show it well but listen to the description of play-by-play voice Ben Wagner and you get the picture. Afterward, Brown said Gose needed to "get his head out of wherever it's at." Uh-huh.
It was good to hear in the postgame chatter that Ricky Romero was staying focused on how he pitched and not bummed that he can't get a win. The guy was MLB-ready last night. That's two straight official "quality starts" and three in a row where he's looked strong. If he puts 2-3 more together in a row, the Blue Jays will definitely have their interest piqued. Getting sent off the 40-man roster surely helped Romero, as did a return to his old mechanics. With Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang filling the rotation, there are no spots right now in Toronto. Interesting to watch.
The rotation is bouncing back from a disastrous May when it had an 8.38 ERA. Still the Bisons are last in the league in team pitching with a 4.95 ERA that would rate as the second-worst of its modern era. The club is 7-11 in June and averaging 3.9 runs per game, a big drop from the 4.9 of May and 5.8 of April.
The record at home (15-18) vs. road (21-17) is baffling. While the pitching is only slightly better at home (4.69 vs. 5.19), the offense is hugely worse. Until last night, the Bisons had been shut out in three of their previous six home games. They're batting .276 on the road, averaging 5.1 runs and have struck 50 homers. In Buffalo, the numbers are just .268, 4.2 and 28. Very strange. It's not like they're still in Las Vegas and hanging out at the casinos.
This stretch features eight out of 12 games against Gwinnett. Time to make some hay. The Bisons are 1-2 so far. They could slip to .500 today after being 10 games over on multiple occasions. Time for this club to make some statements.