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Blue Jays promote top pitching prospect Sanchez to Bisons

Aaron Sanchez was the Blue Jays' second first-round choice in 2010. (Toronto Star via Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

Bisons fans had a memorable, albeit short, stint of watching Blue Jays megaprospect Marcus Stroman on the mound in Buffalo this year. It looks like they're about to get a chance to see Toronto's other big arm.

As first reported by Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the Blue Jays promoted 21-year-old right-hander Aaron Sanchez from Double-A New Hampshire to the Herd today. Sanchez is 3-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts with the Fisher Cats but has been particularly impressive in winning his last two outings, allowing three runs in 11 2/3 innings -- but striking out 14 and walking just three.

Sanchez, who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, is generally considered the top Toronto prospect still in the minors. He was listed as's No. 19 overall prospect prior to the season and was ranked No. 32 by Baseball America.

The callup of Sanchez will give the Bisons a pair of 2010 first-round draft choices in their rotation. Deck McGuire, who recently joined the team from New Hampshire, was the No. 11 pick that year and Sanchez went No. 34 as a compensation pick for the loss of former Bison Marco Scutaro in free agency. And Stroman, remember, was Toronto's No. 1 pick in 2012.

Sanchez's career to date has been marked by careful logging of his innings, especially since he missed a month last year with shoulder discomfort. He's yet to throw more than 91 innings in a season, although he finished last year strong, getting additional innings in the Arizona Fall League and earning the starting nod in the league's Rising Stars Game. Sanchez is already at 66 innings this year so he will certainly blow by that number in 2014. 

Sanchez had an impressive spring with the Blue Jays, capped by 5 2/3 scoreless innings in an outing against Tampa Bay that featured the bulk of the Rays' major-league lineup. He was so good that broadcaster Buck Martinez, the former Jays catcher and manager, said he should open the season in the big-league rotation. The Blue Jays followed the advice of Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin and played it safe with Sanchez, putting him in Double-A.

The Bisons play their series opener tonight in Toledo, with Sean Nolin scheduled to start. There's no word yet how the rotation might go although Sanchez's normal day to pitch would be Friday so stay tuned. The team does not return home until opening a series June 20 against Rochester.

Noon update: The Toronto Star is reporting Sanchez's Triple-A debut will come Saturday at Toledo.

Did-you-see-that Video: Cespedes' throw

By Mike Harrington

My email and Twitter feeds got these contributions today and they're both worth a look.

The first comes from the eighth inning of Tuesday's A's-Angels game, where Yoenis Cespedes makes up for his own gaffe in left field with a not-of-this-world throw to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called it "a guided missile." Good description. Check it out:

Bisons rally for Kids Day win in Syracuse to split series

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Bisons used a trio of home runs to wipe out a three-run deficit today and rally past the Syracuse Chiefs, 8-4.  The win before 10,157 in NBT Bank Stadium allowed the Herd to earn a split of a two-game series.

The Bisons fell behind, 3-0, in the first inning and were down, 4-1, after four before rallying to score the game's final seven runs. Dan Johnson slugged a two-out solo homer in the fourth, his team-high 14th of the season, while Jared Goedert led off the sixth with a solo shot and catcher Mike Nickeas capped a three-run eighth with a two-run blast to left that closed the scoring.

Buffalo starting pitcher Deck McGuire fell behind in the first on Zach Walters' solo homer and Jonathan Solano's two-run double and also gave up Brian Goodwin's solo homer in the fourth. But the offense picked up McGuire and improved his record to 3-0 by scoring two runs in the fifth on Kenny Wilson's triple and two more in the sixth on the Goedert homer and an RBI triple from Munenori Kawasaki.

The win pulled the Bisons back to .500 at 31-31 and within 4 1/2 games of first-place Syracuse in the IL North. The Chiefs fell to 37-28 and are 22-10 at home, tied with Rochester for the best home mark in the league.

The Bisons are off on Wednesday. They open an eight-game road trip Thursday night at Toledo, with Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus expected to be in the lineup on an injury rehab assignment and Sean Nolin (2-2) scheduled to be the starting pitcher. The Herd plays four games in Toledo and four in Columbus before returning home to open a homestand June 20 against Rochester.

Bisons win in rain-shortened game

by Amy Moritz

In a rain-shortened game the Buffalo Bisons came out with a 4-2 win over the Syracuse Chiefs in front of 7,494 at Coca-Cola Field Sunday afternoon.

The skies opened up with two outs in the top of the sixth and the game went into a 1 hour, 3 minute 12 second rain delay before the umpires called the game.

Jared Goedert and Mike Nickeas both went 3-for-3 with Nickeas belting a home run and driving in two runs.

Syracuse took a 1-0 lead in the second when Destin Hood had a one-out triple and scored on a single from Jhonatan Solano.

The Bisons continued to pile up hits without a run until Brad Glenn broke through with a solo home run to lead off the fourth. Mike Nickeas added a solo shot to give the Herd a 2-0 lead.

The lead extended to 3-1 in the fifth. Lead off hits from Jared Goedert and Dan Johnson put runners on the corners. Goedert scored on a one-out single from A.J. Jimenez. With two outs, Nickeas drove in Johnson for a 4-1 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Hendriks gave up back-to-back singles. He got out of it as the defense turned a solid double play. With two outs and Brock Peterson on third, Hendriks tried to bare hand a hit from Brian Goodwin, but he missed the ball. Third baseman Jared Goedert picked up the ball and tried to make the play at first, but the throw was late and Peterson scored.

That cut the Bisons’ lead to 4-2 with a runner on base and two outs as the rain came pouring down and the tarp rolled out.

Top pitchers in the International League take the mound today

by Amy Moritz

Please rain, stay away from downtown Buffalo for a few hours. Because this is a great pitching matchup at Coca-Cola Field.

The pitchers with the top two ERAs in the International League square off at 1:05 p.m. (Radio 1520, TWCS) as the Buffalo Bisons conclude their homestand against the Syracuse Chiefs.

For the Herd, it's righty Liam Hendriks, who makes his ninth start of the year. He has a 1.91 ERA, which is second only to Taylor Hill (1.57) who starts for the Chiefs.

Hendriks made two starts with the Toronto Blue Jays during a promotion from May 23-June 2. He went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 11 2/3 innings pitched.

Back in Buffalo, his last start was June 3 when he gave up four runs on six hits in eight innings of a no-decision. In that outing he strukc out six and walked none.

Hill has allowed two eanred runs over 30 innings of his last five outings.

Today's Bisons' lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Ryan Goins -- 2B
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Brad Glenn -- LF
A.J. Jimenez -- DH
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS
Mike Nickeas -- C
Kenny Wilson -- RF

Bisons look to use the force to pick up third straight win

by Amy Moritz

The Buffalo Bisons (er, Jedi Bisons) prepare to do battle with a team from a galaxy far, far away (or, you know Syracuse) ... yes the Star Wars references will be flowing freely tonight as the Herd hosts its seventh annual Star Wars Night at Coca-Cola Field.

While the soldout crowd will get to play with laser swords, meet characters from the movie and follow along with a game-long Star Wars episodic story, the Bisons will be looking for their third straight win. While wearing R2D2 themed jerseys.

On the mound: Kyle Drabek makes his seventh home start. He took the loss on June 2, against the Chiefs, giving up four runs on six hits including three home runs.

Roster moves: Brad Glenn comes off the disabled list and returns to right field for the Herd. His bat is much needed as the Bisons look to create some offense. Glenn has hit in all 13 games he has started for Buffalo since his promotion from Double-A New Hampshire. Outfielder Brett Carroll went on the DL while pitcher Shawn Hill was transferred to the FisherCats.

Streak continues: Darin Marstroianni extended his hitting streak to nine games. During this stretch, he his batting .438 with six runs scored and four stolen bases while driving in six runs.

Tonight's Bisons' lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
A.J. Jimenez -- C
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Brad Glenn -- RF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Ryan Goins -- 2B
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Jonathan Diaz -- SS

Bisons still searching for offense

by Amy Moritz

The Buffalo Bisons aren't out of their offensive slump. Not yet.

The Herd did finally win, getting five runs on 11 hits in Thursday's School Kids' Day win over the Toledo Mud Hens.

But a glance at tonight's lineup for the final game of the series with the Mud Hens (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520) shows that the Bisons need some more consistent offensive production.

The last three hitters in the Herd's lineup are all hitting below .200 -- Andy LaRoche (.179), Kenny Wilson (.167) and Jonathan Diaz (.113). The Bisons are not the worst hitting club in the International League. That dubious honor goes to Charlotte with the Knights collectively batting .232. But the Herd's .251 average is the prime reason they have slipped below .500 and from first to a three-way tie for third in the IL North Division.

Best hitter: Amid the offensive woes, leadoff man Darin Mastroianni is on an eight-game hitting streak. During the run he has batted .438 with five runs scored and three stolen bases while driving in six runs. 

Nolin returns: Lefty Sean Nolin returns to the mound after missing 20 games with a left groin strain. It will be Nolin's eighth start of the season with the Herd. He has a 2-2 mark with a 2.70 earned run average.

Romero to the DL: Friday afternoon the Bisons put lefty Ricky Romero on the disabled list with a strained right calf. Romero suffered the injury in his last start which came on Sunday at Coca-Cola Field.

Hessman watch: Mike Hessman is in the lineup for Toledo tonight, still chasing sole ownership of the all-time home run record in the IL. He remains tied with Bisons legend Ollie Carnegie with 258 home runs.

Tonight's Bisons' lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Ryan Goins -- SS
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- 1B
A.J. Jimenez -- C
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Kenny Wilson -- RF
Jonathan Diaz -- 2B

Bisons snap four-game skid, McGuire shines

By Taylor Nigrelli 

The Bisons used another dominant Deck McGuire performance to beat Toledo, 5-2, and snap a four-game losing streak Thursday afternoon in front of an announced School Kids Day crowd of 15,361 in Coca-Cola Field.  

McGuire pitched seven innings, allowed one run on three hits and tied a Bisons season high with 10 strikeouts. McGuire moved to 2-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.29 in his third Triple-A start.

The Bisons grabbed the lead early, scoring four runs in the first inning on the strength of back-to-back two-RBI base hits by Matt Tuiasosopo and Ryan Goins. The Herd would add a fifth run in the eighth inning on a Darin Mastroianni sacrifice fly.

Mike Hessman, who’s currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the all-time International League home run record of 258, failed to break the record, finishing 0-3 with a walk.

The Bisons will look to come away with a series split with the Mud Hens when they take the field Friday for a 7:05 start. Sean Nolin (2-2) and Mike Belfiore (2-2) are expected to start for Buffalo and Toledo, respectively. 

Opening Night at Rogers Centre, nee SkyDome, was 25 years ago

My ticket from the first game in SkyDome. The same seat today sells for $44-$52 under the team's flexible pricing. The psychedellic wavy design was to prevent counterfeiting.


By Mike Harrington

It was 25 years ago today -- on June 5, 1989 -- that the Toronto Blue Jays played their first game in the then-SkyDome. It was a Monday night game against the Milwaukee Brewers (then in the American League, remember). The Brewers won it, 5-3, as Paul Molitor, Toronto's World Series MVP four years later, had the first at-bat and hit (a leadoff double), and Fred McGriff hit the first home run. The box score and play-by-play are here.

I was at the game in the left-field stands and remember seeing the scramble that was on to get the building open right to the last minute. There was still visible construction dusts on seats and walls, but the Blue Jays needed to open in the new park because the finale a few days earlier at Exhibition Stadium had been heavily promoted as the final game in the team's home since its 1977 debut.

Jimmy Key pitched a complete game in the SkyDome opener despite taking the loss and threw the first pitch to Ernie Whitt. They will reprise that battery before Friday night's game against St. Louis as the Blue Jays return home to celebrate the anniversary. Cheap plug alert: I'll be covering that game as Marcus Stroman gets the start against the defending NL champions.

The Sporting News has this timeline of key events in the dome's 25 years.

The Toronto Star has this retrospective, courtesy of former Jays pitcher and current broadcaster Duane Ward.

How did the building come to be named SkyDome? A bookkeeper from Wallaceburg, Ont., which is three hours away, won a name the stadium contest and has earned two free tickets for life for every event in the place.

Here's an incredible YouTube floating around that shows the construction of the building -- 2 1/2 years of work in 2 1/2 minutes. 

Hessman returns to lineup, Bisons take on Toledo in early game

By Taylor Nigrelli 

After missing the past three games to recover from a procedure that removed “pre-cancerous growths” from his face, Toledo Mud Hens infielder Mike Hessman will return to the lineup this afternoon in the third game of a four-game set between Toledo and Buffalo.

Hessman is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for most home runs – 258 – in International League history.  He’ll bat fourth and play third base.

Today’s game will feature an unusually early 10:35 a.m. first pitch as the Bisons are holding their annual “school kid’s day” promotion.

When the Herd takes the field – just over 12 hours after leaving it last night – it will be looking to snap out of a rough stretch that has stretched over two weeks. The Bisons have lost four straight and 10 of 12 contests.

Buffalo will hand the ball to Deck McGuire for his third triple-A start. The former first round pick has pitched well so far – he’s 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA. Drew VerHagen (3-5, 3.77) will get the call for Toledo.

Today’s lineup:

Darin Mastroianni – CF
Munenori Kawasaki – 2B
Jared Goedert  - 3B
Dan Johnson – DH
Matt Tuiasosopo – 1B
Ryan Goins – SS
Brett Carroll – RF
Mike Nikeas – C
Kenny Wilson - LF

Hessman and Carnegie still tied for home run title

by Amy Moritz

The home run alert for Mike Hessman continues.

The Toeldo infielder is tied with Bisons legendary slugger Ollie Carnegie for most most home runs in the history of the International League.

Hessman, who has pre-cancerous growths removed from his face, has been dealing with some swelling in his eye. He told Buffalo News sports reporter Mike Harrington earlier this afternoon that he was hoping to be available to pinch hit today. He took ground balls and hit during batting practice at Coca-Cola Field.

Hessman played with the Herd in 2010 and has 258 home runs in the IL, tying Carnegie who played 12 seasons in Buffalo.

Meanwhile the Bisons are looking to get back on track. With Tuesday's 5-4 loss in 11 innings, the Herd fell below .500 for the first time this season.

Radhames Liz makes his Bison debut on the mound. He began the season on Buffalo's disabled list with right knee soreness. He made two starts with the Double-A Fisher Cats racking up 10 strikeouts in 8 1/3 scoreless innings.

Tonight's Bison's lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Ryan Goins -- 2B
A.J. Jiminez -- C
Dan Johnson -- 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Brett Carroll -- RF
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Munenori Kawasaki -- SS
Jonathan Diaz -- 3B


Press box nightmare: Reporter's laptop felled by foul ball in Cincy

The shattered screen of Mark Sheldon's laptop, from his Twitter feed.

By Mike Harrington

What's about the worst thing that can happen to a reporter in a press box, especially one on deadline? Easy. A laptop crash. We've all had them from time to time and usually a reboot can get you back up and running.

Then there's the issue of a foul ball. No way to get you running if you take a direct hit and veteran Mark Sheldon was such a victim Tuesday night in Cincinnati, thanks to Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. You see the picture above that Sheldon tweeted -- and has more than 1,500 RTs and favorites as of early today -- and you can watch the video evidence below.

I feel for the poor guy, but his reaction is priceless. And how about the buddy who asks him if he wants the ball like he's a 10-year-old who got drilled in the hand?!

The Reds won the game, 8-3, to push their winning streak to four and Sheldon filed his story on the game with an assist from an associate who loaned him a laptop. His quick explanation on the laptop troubles is on his blog

Bisons fall to under .500 in extra innings loss, Hessman sits

By Taylor Nigrelli 

The Bisons fell to under .500 – 27-28 – for the first time all season after dropping an 11-inning contest, 5-4, to the Toledo Mud Hens Tuesday.

The loss came with some controversy as Toledo’s Jordan Lennerton scored on a close-play at home plate in the 11th inning to take the lead . Bisons manager Gary Allenson believed he saw catcher A.J. Jimenez tag Lennerton and went out to argue the call. He was subsequently ejected.

“I thought the guy was out,” Allenson said. “I thought Jimenez tagged him on the sleeve. I went out to argue but (the umpire) wasn’t in position to see the tag. He was behind the plate.”

On a brighter note for the Bisons, the game saw both Liam Hendriks and Bobby Korecky make their returns to the Buffalo pitching staff after short stints in Toronto.

Hendriks gave up four runs, three of which came on a third inning home run, and struck out six. He tied a Bisons season high with eight innings pitched. Korecky pitched scoreless ninth and tenth innings.

Dan Johnson slugged his team-leading 11th homer of the year, cutting across the wind to land over the right centerfield wall.

The Bisons will look to even the series Wednesday as they will take on Toledo in game two of a four-game set. Radhames Liz, who was recently promoted from New Hampshire (AA) will get the start for Buffalo. Kyle Lobstein (4-5) is expected to get the call for Toledo. 

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman, who is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the International League home run record with 258, sat out Tuesday's game after having a procedure done to remove pre-cancerous growths from his face. 

Hessman sits as Bisons open series against Mud Hens

By Taylor Nigrelli

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman, who is currently tied with Bisons great Ollie Carnegie for the all-time International League home run record with 258, will  not start today, as was previously expected.

Hessman was also not in the lineup yesterday as he had pre-cancerous growths removed from his nose and forehead.

Buffalo fans may still have a chance to see Hessman, who played briefly for the Bisons in 2010, break Carnegie’s record if he’s able to play either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.48) will get the start for the Bisons (27-27) tonight as the team opens up a four-game set against the Toledo Mud Hens (27-31).

Hendriks gets the call after spending nearly two weeks with the Toronto Blue Jays. The righty pitched just 11 and two-thirds innings in two starts for the big club but sported an impressive 2.31 ERA.

The Blue Jays outrighted Hendriks Tuesday. In doing so, the Jays called up righty Chad Jenkins for the third time this season. The Herd will also be without relief pitchers Neil Wagner and John Stilson, who were moved to the disabled list Monday.

Duane Below (3-1, 3.81) will get the call tonight for Toledo.

Bisons lineup:

Darin Mastroianni - CF
Ryan Goins – 2B
Jared Goedert – 3B
Dan Johnson - DH
A.J. Jimenez - C
Matt Tuiasosopo – 1B
Brett Carroll - RF
Kenny Wilson - LF
Jonathan Diaz - SS

Blue Jays continue shuffle of Buffalo rotation; IL ERA leader Hendriks returns to start tonight

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons' slew of injuries to the pitching staff has resulted in yet another shuffle in the rotation, with IL ERA leader Liam Hendriks (5-0, 1.48) returning from Toronto and getting the start tonight against Toledo. The Blue Jays have also promoted Radhames Liz from Double-A New Hampshire and he will start for Buffalo on Wednesday.

Liz, who pitched 28 games for Baltimore from 2007-2009, went 8-8 last year at Double-A Portland in the Red Sox chain. Chad Jenkins has been called up to Toronto for the fourth time this season. Deck McGuire will make his third start for the Herd in Thursday's 10:35 a.m. game while the Bisons have not made a decision on Friday's starter.

Toledo slugger Mike Hessman is expected to play tonight, needing one homer to break Bisons legend Ollie Carnegie's all-time IL mark. Here's a quick Hessman quiz/primer put together by John Wagner of the Toledo Blade.

Hessman off Monday, to play Tuesday in Buffalo after removal of pre-cancerous growths

by Amy Moritz

Mike Hessman's chase of the International League home run record will take an unexpected day off today.

The slugger was not in the Toledo Mud Hen's lineup tonight as a doctor removed "pre-cancerous growths from his nose and forehead earlier in the day" according to a report from The Blade.

“In spring training the doctors told me to have it looked at, because it might be the start of skin cancer,” Hessman said in the Blade article.. “I had the appointment last Friday, and after taking a sample the doctor said it was the start of skin cancer.”

Hessman, who played for the Bisons in 2010, has 258 International League home runs. That ties the all-time record set by Buffalo Bison Wall of Famer Ollie Carnegie.

The report said that Hessman expects to be in the lineup on Tuesday when the Mud Hens open a four-game series against the Bisons in Coca-Cola Field.

Injury updates as the Bisons prepare to play the Chiefs

by Amy Moritz

First thing's first. Here's an update on the Buffalo Bisons MASH unit from Sunday's loss to Syracuse:

1. Sean Nolin. He was injured during a simulated game in the afternoon. Said manager Gary Allenson, "He's fine." Nolin has been on the disabled list since May 14 with a left groin strain.

2. Ricky Romero. The starter left the game with a leg injury. "Romero I believe has a calf issue that might keep him out a little while," Allenson said.

3. Rob Rasmussen. The reliever took a line drive off his elbow. "Rasmussen has a bruise so he’s on a day-to-day basis," Allenson said.

4. Neil Wagner. He left the game after he threw a wild pitch in the ninth inning that allowed the go-ahead run to score. Wagner had been on the disabled list with forearm tightness. "Wagner I don’t know about. Wagner I think flew to Florida there and he’s having some tests done down there,"  Allenson said.

Wagner was placed on the disabled list along with reliever John Stilson (retroactive to May 30) and outfielder Brad Glenn.

The good news for the Bisons is the return of starter Liam Hendriks (Allenson said he would start on Tuesday) and closer Bobby Koreky (available today) from stints with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Some help is coming from Double-A New Hampshire as lefty RIchard Bleier was promoted this afternoon. Also added to the Herd's roster was outfielder Brett Carroll who came off the disabled list.

Tonight's starter is Kyle Drabek (4-4, 4.19) who is making his 11th start of the season but looking for his first win at Coca-Cola Field.

Second baseman Ryan Goins and catcher Mike Nickeas get the day off. Tonight's starting lineup:

Darin Mastroianni -- CF
Munenori Kawasaki -- 2B
Jared Goedert -- 3B
Dan Johnson -- 1B
A.J. Jimenez -- C
Matt Tuiasosopo -- LF
Andy LaRoche -- DH
Kenny Wilson -- RF
Jonathan Diaz -- SS


Bizarre Sunday recap: Bisons lose four pitchers to injury -- and game -- to Chiefs

By Mike Harrington

Hard to tell what was worse Sunday: The fact the Buffalo Bisons blew a 5-1 lead and eventually gave up four runs in the ninth to fall to Syracuse, 8-5 -- or the fact the Herd lost four pitchers to injury.

Yes, four.

Sean Nolin took a line drive to the leg in the morning during a simulated game. Then Ricky Romero (knee), Rob Rasmussen (liner to arm) and Neil Wagner (forearm) all left during the game.

"Just a weird day for us, starting from our 'simgame,' " said catcher Mike Nickeas. "An unlucky day. Weird stuff. Ricky to Ras to Wags. Unfortunate for us all the way around."

The Bisons had a 5-1 lead through three innings with Romero seeking his first win of the season. But he hit Gerald Laird with a pitch on his second delivery of the fourth and had to leave because of pain behind his knee. Rasmussen left after getting drilled by Destin Hood's liner that was turned into a 1-5-3 out to end the seventh. Wagner's wild pitch with two out in the ninth allowed Zach Walters to snap a 5-5 tie and score the eventual winning run, and was a clear sign something was wrong with him as well.

Manager Gary Allenson said all four pitchers will need to be re-evaluated on Monday to determine if any are going on the disabled list. Reinforcements could be on the way, however, as the Blue Jays returned Liam Hendriks to the Buffalo rotation and ace reliever Bobby Korecky could be returned if he clears waivers.

The Bisons managed just four hits in the game -- none over the final 4 2/3 innings. They got all their runs in the third, with Dan Johnson's three-run homer to the party deck in right capping the uprising.  The loss dropped Buffalo three games behind Rochester in the IL North standings, the Herd's biggest deficit of the season.

The series with Syracuse concludes Monday night at (TWC, Radio 1520 AM) as Buffalo's Kyle Drabek (4-4) faces Syracuse lefty Aaron Laffey (5-3). He went 15-5 with the Bisons in 2007-08, the final two years of the Cleveland affiliation, and has pitched 153 games for five teams in the big leagues.

Romero tries again as Herd meets Chiefs

By Mike Harrington

The Bisons and Syracuse Chiefs meet again today on a sunny Sunday in Coca-Cola Field after splitting the first two games of their series. The Herd snapped its seasonlong four-game skid with Saturday's 5-2 win that knocked Syracuse out of first place in the IL North. Rochester now leads the division by a half-game over the Chiefs with Buffalo, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley all two games back.

Ricky Romero makes his ninth start of the season on the mound for Buffalo, still trying for his first win and also trying to regain his control. Romero is 0-3, 5.71 on the season with 39 walks and 33 hits allowed in 34 2/3 innings.

He's lost his last three starts in disastrous fashion -- combining for just 10 2/3 innings and walking 21. He's making $7.5 million this year from the Blue Jays so they have to keep running him out there. But you wonder when enough becomes enough.

Mark Aichinger throws the first pitch ( Bisons Twitter photo)

Today is also the 50th birthday celebration of Bisons super fan Mark Aichinger (right). He's the robust rooter who sits behind home plate virtually every day and is well known to fans -- and to visiting teams often subject to his, um, discussions.

I noted a sign in the ballpark elevator that the family of Aichinger, the team's 1997 Joe Byron Fan of the Year, has rented a suite on the third-base side and he was on the field helping the grounds crew during its pregame work. 

Here's the Buffalo lineup:

Darin Mastroianni, cf
Ryan Goins, ss
Jared Goedert, 3b
Dan Johnson, 1b
Matt Tuiasosopo, lf
Andy LaRoche, dh
Mike Nickeas, c
Kenny Wilson, rf
Jonathan Diaz, c
Ricky Romero, p

Bisons use big eighth inning to upend Chiefs

The Bisons offense came alive Saturday as the team snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over Syracuse.

Buffalo starter Deck McGuire impressed, going seven innings and allowing just two runs on three hits. However, Syracuse starter Taylor Jordan was more impressive for most of the game, allowing just one hit in seven innings at one point.

Jordan began to struggle a bit in the eighth, however, and the Bisons took full advantage of the opportunity. Andy La Roche and Munenori Kawasaki led off the inning with singles before Kenny Wilson hit into a fielder’s choice.

Things began to look bleak again for Buffalo as Darin Mastrianni popped up for the second out. However, Jordan walked Ryan Goins and was subsequently taken out to allow Xavier Cedeno finish the inning.

Cedeno surrendered back-to-back two-RBI singles to Jared Goedert and Dan Johnson before getting A.J. Jimenez to strike out. But the damage was done. Neil Wagner came on to earn his fourth save with a scoreless ninth inning.

As Bisons manager finished up his press conference after the game, he summed up what many Bisons faithful are liking thinking.

“Hopefully, we’re back on track,” he said.

The Bisons will take on Syracuse again tomorrow in the third game of a four-game set. Ricky Romero and Ryan Tatusko are scheduled to take the start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05. 

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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 |

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 |