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Ex-Canisius pitcher Axford traded to Cardinals

AxBy Mike Harrington

Former Canisius College pitcher John Axford (left) came very close to pitching in the World Series two years ago when the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Axford just got another chance today -- with the team that denied him that first opportunity.

The Cardinals have acquired Axford in a trade with the Brewers for a player to be named. Axford, 30, is 6-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 62 relief appearances this season for Milwaukee serving mostly in setup roles after losing his closer's job. He has 106 saves, second in franchise history, including a franchise-record 46 in 2011.

The Cardinals are almost certain to qualify for the postseason and are trying to maintain their hold on first place in the NL Central. They have a one-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates and open a three-game series tonight in Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Here's a story I did on Axford in 2009 upon his first callup to the big leagues. The Canadian right-hander pitched for Canisius in 2006 after three years at Notre Dame while on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery.

Bisons' slim hopes still alive

By Mike Harrington

A little lost in the hoopla of the Bisons-Blue Jays PDC extension is the fact that Thursday's come-from-behind win over Rochester kept the Bisons' flickering playoff hopes alive.

The Herd pulled within 3 1/2 games of IL wild-card leader Norfolk, a 2-0 loser at Charlotte. But with only four games left, the Bisons basically have no room for error. They play the next two nights at Rochester, which is a half-game behind Norfolk, and the final two in Syracuse.

Two more wins would clinch a winning season for the Bisons, which would be one decent thing in the first season with Toronto. The best Buffalo can do is 75-69, so it will need plenty of help.

Small chances. It's pretty much wait till next year. Or more specificially, 214 days from now. To the home opener against Rochester on April 3, 2014.

Here's a look at Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski signing the new deal.

Bulletin: Bisons extend deal with Blue Jays through 2016

By Mike Harrington

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski took the field tonight at the end of the third inning with a surprise announcement to the Fan Appreciation Night crowd at Coca-Cola Field -- the Bisons and Blue Jays have agreed to a two-year extension of their player development contract, which will now run through the 2016 season.

The Bisons and Blue Jays signed a two-year deal last September and clearly made a quick decision to extend the deal so there would be no discussion of it next year. That said, the move was not unexpected. When the teams signed last fall, Blue Jays president Paul Beeston noted it was a two-year deal he hoped would last for 42 years. 

Anthopoulos and Buczkowski officially signed the deal in front of fans at a table placed in foul territory in front of the Buffalo dugout between innings, with their handshake drawing a huge round of applause from the big crowd. There was a brief video presentation, accompanied by the musical ditty "OK, Blue Jays" that has been a part of Toronto baseball for more than 30 years.

Anthopoulos and Buczkowski are scheduled to meet the media shortly to discuss the extension.

In meeting the media in the press box during tonight's game, Anthopoulos succinctly put his organization's position out there: "It was a no-brainer for us. I think anybody in Toronto could make this call."

Continue reading "Bulletin: Bisons extend deal with Blue Jays through 2016" »

One final time, Bisons take the field at home

PhotoBy Mike Harrington

Nearly five months after it began with a 12-7 win over Rochester that triumphantly opened the Toronto Blue Jays era in Buffalo, the Bisons' home schedule will end tonight against the same Red Wings.

The promise of April has turned into the dashed dreams of August, as a loss tonight will eliminate the Bisons from contention for the International League wild-card and give them eight straight years without a playoff berth.

Still, there's a good feeling around the ballpark as "Thank You" is painted in foul territory behind first and third bases in a salute to the fans as you see in the photo above (h/t Twitter feed of Amy Moritz). The crowd tonight should be at least 15,000 and perhaps even more, so it will be interesting to calculate the attendance bump the team got from its new affiliation and from fans crossing the Peace Bridge who had otherwise never ventured here before.

"I think they really enjoyed the atmosphere here in the ballpark and seeing the young players and now they get to see them in Toronto too," manager Marty Brown told me before the game. "We've gotten an even bigger response from Canadian fans than we've even imagined, the way they've enjoyed themselves. And I think it's only going to get better."

The playoff race: It's just about toast but for the record Norfolk is 74-64 heading into its game tonight at Charlotte. Rochester (74-65) is a half-game back while Lehigh Valley (71-68, going into a game at Scranton) is 3 1/2 out and the Bisons (70-69) are 4 1/2 back.

Moving on up: Brown said he was thrilled to read reports and watch video of his former players helping the Blue Jays take two of three games from the Yankees this week. Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Ryan Goins have all made big contributions and be sure to read my post from earlier today about Gose and Goins combining to nail Alex Rodriguez at the plate last night.

"They're young, energetic and extremely talented guys and it doesn't surprise me at all the way they went about their jobs here that they're having success up there," Brown said. "It's nice to see. That's why I still do this job. It's great, a big part of it."

Transactions: Chien-Ming Wang has cleared waivers and returned to Buffalo while catcher Jack Murphy has been promoted from Double-A New Hampshire. Catcher A.J. Jimenez has been placed on the temporary inactive list with elbow irritation and pitcher Tommy Hottovy has gone on the disabled list. 

Tonight's activities:  The team's end-of-season awards have been presented prior to the game tonight and the winners are Mauro Gomez-Stan Barron MVP; Justin Germano-Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher; Chien-Ming Wang-Comeback Player of the Year; Mike Nickeas-Inspirational; Jim Negrych-Hometown Hero; Anthony Gose-Community Service. The Fan of the Year is Mike Klein, a longtime season ticket holder in Section 113.

Tonight's lineup:

Mike McCoy, ss
Blake Gailen, lf
Mauro Gomez, 1b
Clint Robinson, dh
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Ryan Langerhans, cf
Brad Glenn, rf
Jim Negrych, 2b
Mike Nickeas, c
---
Sean Nolin, p 

Bisons, er, Blue Jays take two of three from Yankees as Gose-to-Goins nails A-Rod

By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- It's just about over for the Bisons, whose tragic number fell to 2 in the International League wild-card race with Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Rochester in Coca-Cola Field. One reason the Herd has slogged to the finish is because the guts of its lineup is in the Rogers Centre.

Bad news in Buffalo but good news organization-wide as the ex-Bisons made big contributions the last three days as the Blue Jays took two of three games from the Yankees.

Second baseman Ryan Goins continued his red-hot work at the plate with two more hits, but the key play in Wednesday's 7-2 romp past the Yankees was his relay throw to the plate in the fourth to nail Alex Rodriguez at home.

Watch the MLB.com video of the play here.

Mark Reynolds' laser to right barely missed clearing the wall for a three-run homer that would have cut what was a 7-0 deficit to 7-4, and the ball ricocheted past Moises Sierra in right. Anthony Gose alertly backed it up and fired a strike to Goins (hitting cutoff men has been a rarity in these parts this season). Goins, in short right field, fired home to catcher J.P. Arencibia to nail a chugging A-Rod.

Why the Yankees sent him in that spot is anybody's guess. Joe Girardi said he had no problem with it  but that was just covering for A-Rod and the over-aggressiveness of third-base coach Rob Thomson.

Continue reading "Bisons, er, Blue Jays take two of three from Yankees as Gose-to-Goins nails A-Rod" »

Gomez guns for 30

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

Mauro Gomez continues to pack quite a punch when he's in the Buffalo Bisons lineup. The infielder hit his 29th home run Tuesday night. That ties him for the International League league with Zach Walters of Syracuse.

He'll be looking for the 30-mark tonight as the Buffalo Bisons host the Rochester Red Wings in Coca-Cola Field (7:05 p.m., TWCS, Radio 1520).

If he hits the 30-mark, he will become the eighth Bisons player to reach that mark in a season and the first to do so since Karim Garcia belted 31 home runs in 2001.

Earlier this week, Gomez became the first Bisons postseason All-Star since 2007.

Weber gets the start: Thad Weber has won four of his last five starts and takes the mound for the Herd tonight. Since July 24, he has a 33-8 strikeout-walk ratio.

Perez joins Herd: Lefty Luis Perez joined the Bisons on an MLB injury rehabilitation assignment. The 28-year old had Tommy John surgery in July 2012 after going 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 35 games with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gailen impressive debut continues: In his first five games at Triple-A, Blake Gailen has hit .353 (6 of 17).

 Tonight's Bisons' Lineup:
Mike McCoy -- SS
Blake Gailen -- CF
Mauro Gomez -- 1B
Brad Glenn -- RF
Andy LaRoche -- 3B
A.J. Jimenez -- DH
Luis Jimenez -- DH
Ryan Langerhans -- LF
Jim Negrych -- 2B 

Deleted scenes: More from Mariano Rivera

Mo_rivera4_6900
Mariano Rivera laughs it up with Blue Jays employees (John Lott/National Post)


By Mike Harrington

Mariano Rivera's Q &A with Blue Jays employees Tuesday afternoon was so riveting that there was no way to get everything that was discussed into my column in Wednesday's editions of The News. 

There are only two "Mo-Ments of Thanks" sessions left, the final one of four at Yankee Stadium and one at Houston on the season's last weekend. Rivera' s official day of honor in the Bronx on the field will be Sunday, Sept. 22 against the Giants. 

So here' are some more notes/pearls of wisdom from the game's greatest closer:

His post-retirement plans: "I'm gonna be with my family. I've been away from my family for 23 years. They've been supportive of my whole careeer. I want to be able to enjoy them. My kids, my wife. To attend their games, travel with them. baseball is a beautiful game but it demands a lot, a lot of sacrifice. ... It's taken a lot of time away from my family."

On naming former Seattle DH Edgar Martinez his toughest out: Thank God he retired. They're all special. They're all tough because they are professionals. Everybody in the big leagues they are all good. Some of them are special players. Edgar Martinez was one. For me, it was just a pain to get him out. I couldn't get him out."

Feeling in the bullpen: "I get kind of anxious in the seventh inning to be part of the game. Once I come into the game, everything disappears. Everything is just me and the catcher. I've been blessed that I can block all those things out and just focus. That's the main reason I was able to be in baseball so long."

His favorite saves: "To me, they all are special. It doesn't depend on me. I depend on my teammates. If my teammates don't score any runs, I don't think I'll be saving games. I will never start speaking about myself, about how "Oh, I have done this or have done that." It's all "we as a team accomplished this, we as a team have accomplished that." To me, they all are special, from No. 1 to No. 6oo-whatever."

Yankees he wanted to meet he got the chance to: Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Celebrities he's glad he met: President George W. Bush, Billy Crystal

Autographs: Rivera took a picture with each employee and handed them an autographed baseball. The guy who plays Ace, the Blue Jays mascot, drew big laughs from Rivera after their picture as he pulled out a sharpie, signed a picture of him in costume and handed The Sandman his own autograph.

If you want to see Rivera pitch, tonight would be a good night to head up the QEW to the Rogers Centre. Rivera hasn't pitched since saving Sunday's win in Tampa and the Yankees have Thursday off. Even if it's not a save situation, Joe Girardi is almost certain to give him at least an inning against the Bisonesque Blue Jays lineup so he doesn't sit idle for five days. 

Yankees win on field -- and in X-ray room as Cano is OK

Cano
Robinson Cano grimaces as trainer Steve Donahue checks out his wrist while Joe Girardi, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano look on (Getty Images).


By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- The Yankees were happy with Tuesday's 7-1 victory over the Blue Jays/Bisons. They were more than happy with Robinson Cano's negative X-ray.

Cano was drilled in the first inning by a J.A. Happ pitch. If the hand was broken and he was out for the season, that probably would have been it for their wild-card hopes. So it was a rare reprieve in a season that' s featured two broken hand bones for Curtis Granderson (one from Happ in spring training) and one last week from Jayson Nix thanks to R.A. Dickey.

"Obviously your thought is, whenever a guy gets hit in the hand, you're concerned," said manager Joe Girardi. "He could be out for a while. You're never really sure. Every hand that has been X-rayed has come back poorly. We had to go to another country to get a good one."

"I was hurt. I was real concerned," Cano said. "It was a lot of pain. The doctor checked me [in the Blue Jays' clubhouse). We wanted to make sure and went to the hospital."

Cano said he will sit out Wednesday's series finale and should play Friday. Backup Eduardo Nunez tweaked his knee on the turf and is iffy for Wednesday as well, leaving Mark Reynolds potentially at second base.

Prior to the game, I attended Mariano Rivera's session with Blue Jays' employees. Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's editions of The News.

More  on the Yankees' win:

Continue reading "Yankees win on field -- and in X-ray room as Cano is OK" »

Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Departing Mariano meets Jays' employees, Gibbons will return as manager in 2014

IMG_1498
My view of Mariano Rivera and the Blue Jays employees today. Yankees PR head Jason Zillo is moderating to Rivera's left.(click for bigger view) 


By Mike Harrington

TORONTO -- The Yankees and Blue Jays meet in the middle game of their three-game series tonight and a lot has gone here this afternoon in Rogers Centre before a pitch has been thrown.

Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's Buffalo News about Mariano Rivera's meet-and-greet Q&A with Blue Jays employees. Twenty members of the staff, most of them not related to the actual playing of the game, met with Rivera and Yankees PR head Jason Zillo in a third-floor conference room for about 45 minutes talking about baseball, life, his retirement plans and his thoughts on his career.

Rivera is doing this in every city on his farewell tour over his final season as a way to say thank you to all the people who make baseball games possible.

"It is been a privilege for me to be in baseball," Rivera said. "I want to make sure I say thank you to all of those involved. I want to make sure I thank you guys for what you do in baseball, to help us prepare for every day."

I've been at plenty of great games in my career, including some of Rivera's greatest triumphs and greatest failures. This was as riveting as any of them. It was an unvarnished chance to listen to a man who is one of the game's greatest ambassadors.

Mo lottAnd he talked about everything: The evolution of the cutter, his toughest hitter to face (Edgar Martinez), his post-retirement plans (fishing and hanging out with his family, perhaps even in his pajamas), and even his favorite mascot (he liked the Mariner Moose). 

The most emotional moments were saved for his thoughts on the late George Steinbrenner, particularly how The Boss came up to him after he lost Game Seven of the 2001 World Series in Arizona.

"The first one that came to my locker was the Boss," Rivera said. "He looked at me and I looked straight at his face and I said, 'Boss, I gave my best and my best wasn't good enough tonight.' And he said I know and he hugged me and I hugged him. To me that was George Steinbrenner.

"If there was something I could change, I wish he could be alive so I can say thank you for all he did for me."

In other news, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos announced that manager John Gibbons is staying next season and that puts an end to lots of talk that really began over the weekend as the team was struggling in Houston. Fair enough. Gibbons has his faults (the team is pretty fundamentally lax) but he's a solid guy liked by the players and front office.

Moreover, I'd like to see how Gibbons does when the players aren't either a) underachieving or b) hurt. Anthopoulos said today there will be changes next year so this will be a last chance.

Moises Sierra, Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar are all in the Blue Jays lineup again. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both in the lineup for the Yankees, with A-Rod moved up to fifth after last night's home run. 

(Rivera picture above left courtesy of John Lott/National Post)

 

Bisons' Gomez named IL all-star DH, becomes first postseason honoree for Herd since '07

By Mike Harrington

Mauro Gomez was named as the designated hitter on the International League All-Star team today, making him the first Buffalo Bison honored by the IL since 2007.

Gomez, an April waiver claim from the Boston Red Sox, is batting .243 with 28 homers and 68 RBIs for the Herd in 103 games. The 28 homers are tied for second in the league and rank in the top 10 in all of minor league baseball. Gomez leads the team in RBIs, extra-base hits (47) and total bases (196).

Gomez is the Bisons' 39th postseason all-star in their modern era and their first since outfielder Ben Francisco was named in 2007. Buffalo did not have a postseason all-star in its four-year affiliation with the New York Mets. Gomez also played in this year's Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno, Nev.

The only other Bisons player to be selected in the DH position was Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Young in 2004. Gomez, the IL MVP last year with Pawtucket, joins Gwinnett's Barbaro Canizares (2009-10) as the only players in IL history to earn all-star DH honors in consecutive years.

Rochester first baseman Chris Colabello was named the IL's MVP and Rookie of Year, becoming the first player to sweep those awards since Columbus' J.T. Snow in 1992. Former Bison J.D. Martin of Durham, the league leader with 15 wins, was named Pitcher of the Year and Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo was named Manager of the Year. 

The league's announcement of the complete team can be read here.

Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Jeter & A-Rod finally start together; Bisons Ochinko gets 50-game PED suspension

Jeter
For the third time this season, Derek Jeter's wait to get off the DL ends tonight. (Getty Images)


By Mike Harrington

 

TORONTO -- It's Aug. 26 and the Yankees will finally look much like the Yankees tonight in Rogers Centre as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are in the lineup together for the first time all season. That's crazy. Jeter is batting second and playing shortstop while A-Rod is batting sixth and playing third base.

"Yeah, it's hard to believe," Jeter told reporters in the Yankees' clubhouse prior to the game. "I've missed more games this year than the last 20 years combined. In that sense, I've been very fortunate. It seems like everything has happened to me in a year. It's hard to believe but you move forward. You can't change everything that has happened."

For the first time, Jeter admitted his legs haven't been nearly up to snuff in his comeback from his broken ankle. His comeback has twice been stymied, by quad and calf troubles.

"I haven't been able to work out since October to let a bone heal," he said. "You think about it, it's probably not surprising something happened."

Jeter, Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, who is out for the season, have combined for eight homers and 24 RBIs this season. So it's downright miraculous the Yankees are even within a sniff of the playoff race.

Continue reading "Yankee Doodles from Rogers Centre: Jeter & A-Rod finally start together; Bisons Ochinko gets 50-game PED suspension" »

Bisons blanked by IronPigs

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

For the third time in the last six games, the Buffalo Bisons found themselves with a big old goose egg in their run column.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs came away with a 7-0 win over the Herd in front of 12,208 at Coca-Cola Field Sunday afternoon.

The Bisons went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.

Steve Susdorf went 3 for 5 with three RBI, including a two-run homerun in the seventh which blew the game open for the IronPigs.

Kyle Drabek (1-2) gave up three runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.

With Rochester losing to Indianapolis, 8-4 in 10 innings, the Herd remains 2 1/2 games behind the Red Wings in the IL Wild Card race.

The Bisons-IronPigs series moves to Allentown, Pa., where the teams will play a doubleheader on Monday and single game on Tuesday.

Bisons still in Wild Card race

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

As the Buffalo Bisons win and the Rochester Red Wings lose, the Herd finds itself still in the IL Wild Card race with 10 games left to play, including this afternoon's matchup with Lehigh Valley (1:05 p.m., Radio 1520).

The Herd has won two straight. Rochester has lost two straight. And so the Bisons are now just 2 1/2 games back of the wild card spot.

And, for good measure, in the next games, the teams play each other four times.

Drabek start: Righty Kyle Drabek will make his second stard and third appearance with the Bisons as he continues to work his way back from his second Tommy John surgery. He earned a win in relief on Aug. 14 pitching three scoreless innings. In his first start on Monday in Pawtucket, he took the loss giving up two runs in four innings of work.

Solid relief: Righty Jeremy Jeffress has not allowed an earned run his his last 8 1/3 innings. Opponents have just five hits against Jeffress since Aug. 6.

Today's Bisons' lineup:
Mike McCoy -- SS
A.J. Jimenez -- DH
Mauro Gomez -- 3B
Clint Robinson -- 1B
Brad Glenn -- RF
Andy LaRoche -- 2B
Ryan Lnagerhans -- LF
Sean Ochinko -- C
Blake Gailen -- CF 

Bisons seek back-to-back wins

By Rodney McKissic

The Bisons, 3.5 games behind Rochester in the International League wild card, takes on Lehigh Valley tonight. After losing four in a row, the Bisons won on Friday night against the IronPigs, 6-2. Here is the lineup for tonight's game:

Mike McCoy, ss
A.J. Jimenez, c
Mauro Gomez, 3b
Clint Robinson, 1b
Brad Glenn, rf
Andy LaRoche, 2b
Ricardo Nanita, dh
Ryan Langerhans, cf
Blake Gailen, lf
Sean Nolin, p

Goins gets first MLB hit; Blue Jays sign Indy league star for Herd

By Mike Harrington

While most of the Blue Jays are going to want to quickly forget Friday's 12-4 loss to the woebegone Houston Astros, Bisons shortstop Ryan Goins never will. Making his major-league debut, Goins went 2 for 4 in front of a couple dozen family and friends from nearby Round Rock.

Click here to read about Goins' debut and see video of his first hit.

The Bisons, meanwhile, will have another new outfielder tonight for their game vs. Lehigh Valley. Multiple reports say the Blue Jays have signed Blake Gailen from Lancaster (Pa.) of the Atlantic League -- who was named Baseball America's 2012 Independent league player of the year after batting .338 with 22 home runs and 89 RBIs. He was batting .288-11-52 this season.

I still say the Bisons are done but they got a huge reprieve Friday night when Rochester blew a 6-1 lead in the ninth inning and suffered a stunning 7-6 loss to Indianapolis at Frontier Field. The Indians got a game-tying grand slam from former Bison catcher Lucas May and won the game on a sacrifice fly. So the Bisons are 3 1/2 behind Rochester for the wild card with 11 to play.

Video: Sympathy for A-Rod? Yankees a playoff contender?

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan discussed how Ryan Dempster's plunking of Alex Rodriguez has shaken things up in the AL East during their weekly live show:

Watch other segments from this week's "Bucky & Sully Show" here.

Last fridaynightbash! of the season

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

The gates opened at 5 p.m. for happy hour and the evening will conclude with a fireworks display.

What happens on the field in between is anybody's guess.

The Buffalo Bisons are trying to avoid their first five-game losing streak of the season when they host Lehigh Valley at 7 (Radio 1520). The Herd's playoff hopes are dwindling. With 12 games left, the Bisons are 4 1/2 games behind Rochester in the IL Wild Card race and 5 games back of Pawtucket in the North Division race.

Thad Weber gets the start for Buffalo. The righty has won three of his last four starts. He is 6-4 overall with a 2.63 ERA.

Tonight's Bison lineup:
Mike McCoy -- SS
A.J. Jimenez -- C
Mauro Gomez -- DH
Andy LaRoche -- 3B
Ricardo Nanita -- LF
Brad Glenn -- RF
Ryan Langerhans -- CF
Sean Ochinko -- 1B
Jim Negrych -- 2B

Words of wisdom from Rockies' foul ball-giving coach

By Mike Harrington

This video has gone viral in the last 24 hours and I'm posting it here as well for those who haven't seen it yet. 

It's Rockies first base coach Rene Lachemann having a chat Wednesday with a young fan in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. Just listen.

Lachemann's fan lectures when he gives away souvenirs are pretty well known in the Denver area. Yahoo's Big Stew Blog provided another one from last month, including a Santa Claus reference. Hysterical.

Numerology after latest loss: Bisons' offense simply offensive

By Mike Harrington

Here's the updated ugliness on the Bisons' offense after Thursday's 5-1 loss to Lehigh Valley dropped the Herd into the hinterlands of the races in both the International League North and the wild-card:

---The Bisons managed five hits in the game, with doubles by Mike McCoy, Mike Nickeas and Ryan Langerhans and singles by Mauro Gomez and Brad Glenn.  They have their fourth four-game losing streak of the season and are batting a meager .161 (19-118) in the four games and slugging at a putrid .229 clip.

---They went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base. Incredibly, they have gone four straight games without an RISP hit but they are only 0 for 14 in those spots. Crazy to only have 14 at-bats in four games with a runner at second or third. They have left 26 men on base in those games, not a high total given their relative lack of offense.

---A fifth-inning run produced by Ricardo Nanita's sacrifice fly ended Buffalo's scoreless streak at 26 innings but that was all the Herd managed. So it's one run in the last 30 1/3 innings dating to late in Sunday's game. At least the Bisons got one run and avoided their first run of three straight shutout losses since 1986. Yeesh.

---And finally, some craziness from the IL North: Pawtucket took over first place tonight with its 5-2 win at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (some kid named Jeter went 2 for 3 on rehab for the RailRiders). The PawSox were buried after an 11-30 collapse that carried well into August but have suddenly caught fire to go 11-1 in their last 12 games. 

So Rochester is now atop the wild-card race. The Bisons are fourth in the division (five games behind Pawtucket) and wild-card (4 1/2 behind Rochester).

Struggling Bisons try different approach; Romero to start, Wang scratched

By Mike Harrington

Bisons manager Marty Brown used a little pyschology today with his struggling team. He canceled batting practice and told his players to hit in the indoor cage at 5:15 in preparation for tonight's series opener against Lehigh Valley in Coca-Cola Field. 

The Bisons have to do something different. They scored one run in the final 27 innings in Pawtucket and were shut out the last two games, extending their scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings.

"It's more about getting a little bit more tunnel vision," Brown told me late this afternoon. "We need to focus on some of the little things and take it out on the field."

The Bisons went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position the last three games in Pawtucket and left 19 men on base. Of course, just nine RISP at-bats in three games shows how little the offense did.

On the mound: Ricky Romero (4-6, 5.85) gets the start tonight and had one of his best outings of the year in his last one Saturday in Pawtucket, giving up just one run in seven innings. Chien-Ming Wang was supposed to go tonight and has been scratched with Thad Weber slated to throw tomorrow night.

Brown was very cryptic about Wang when I asked about the change saying only, "It wasn't my decision" and "he's healthy." It would appear Wang might be in line to start for the Blue Jays Saturday in Houston, which would be pretty ironic because Minute Maid Park was where Wang suffered his career-altering foot injury in 2008 running the bases for the Yankees.

The standings: This is the opener of a two-city, seven-game series with the Iron Pigs, who are tied with the Bisons at 67-64 and four games behind Pawtucket in the wild-card race. So a loss tonight drops the Bisons into fourth place in the North Division.

The roster: Mauro Gomez, who has slipped to second in the IL home run race with 28, will be back in the lineup tonight after coming off the DL following his oblique strain. He has not played since Aug. 4. The Blue Jays have re-signed outfielder Ryan Langerhans, a member of Buffalo's Opening Day lineup who was released on June 21 after batting .220. He has been playing since then for the Sugarland Skeeters (seriously), a Houston-are team in the independent Atlantic League, and will be in center field tonight.

Brown said Luis Jimenez, who continues to be homerless since June 29 due largely to knee tendonitis, is going to be limited to mere pinch-hitting duties the rest of the way. 

Here's the Buffalo lineup tonight:

Mike McCoy, ss
Jim Negrych, 2b
Ricardo Nanita, lf
Mauro Gomez, dh
Clint Robinson, 1b
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Ryan Langerhans, cf
Brad Glenn, rf
Mike Nickeas, c
----
Ricky Romero, p 

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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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