(bisons.com)-Due to a rainout Sunday afternoon at Coca-Cola Field, the Bisons and Chiefs took the field for a doubleheader Monday evening in Syracuse.
The drama of Mets prospect Zack Wheeler's much-anticipated first Triple-A start was pushed back to Monday, and Buffalo fans eager to see the young pitcher would need to make the 150-mile drive east due to Sunday's inclement weather.
In both games Monday, the Bisons jumped out to the early lead, but Syracuse would respond on each occasion. The Chiefs completed the comeback in the first outing, but not the second, and the Thruway rivals split the twinbill. Syracuse took the first game by a score of 5-4, and Buffalo got some revenge with a 4-3 victory in the nightcap. Wheeler made the start in game one, and started out effectively, pitching four scoreless innings to help the Bisons build a 3-0 advantage. With the Bisons leading 1-0 in the third, sluggers Josh Rodriguez and Lucas Duda homered in back-to-back at-bats to give the Herd the three-run edge. Wheeler struck out the side in the bottom of the third, and it looked like he was cruising at that point - only allowing one hit and one walk in his first three innings of work.
But baseball can be a fickle game, and Wheeler started to see some trouble in the bottom of the fifth. Syracuse loaded the bases off Wheeler with one out, and then scored a pair of runs on a sacrifice fly by Corey Brown and an RBI single by Carlos Rivero.
At that point, Justin Hampson came into the game in relief of Wheeler, with the Herd now leading by a slim score of 3-2. An inning later, the Bisons lead would be gone - thanks to a 3-run outburst by the Chiefs. The Buffalo relief corps of Hampson and Scott Patterson allowed two singles and two doubles in the inning, including an RBI double by Jim Negrych (St. Francis). Just like that, the Herd trailed 5-3, and a two-run seventh would be necessary to extend the game.
It didn't happen, but Buffalo came close. The Bisons staged a two-out rally with a Mike Nickeas double and a Brad Emaus RBI single, with Emaus advancing to second on the throw. A wild pitch sent Emaus to third, giving Fred Lewis the chance to drive Emaus home and tie the game.
Lewis was called out on strikes, however, and Syracuse escaped with the tense victory.
To Buffalo's credit, the Herd quickly responded in the nightcap, courtesy of Matt Den Dekker. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second, Den Dekker launched a ball to right field that cleared the wall for a grand slam. The burst gave Buffalo the 4-0 lead, and the Herd carried the lead into the final frame.
But in the seventh, Syracuse nearly pulled off the rally for the second time of the evening. With three runs already across the plate and two outs, Brown came to the plate with a runner on third. A home run would give Syracuse the stunning 5-4 lead, but an out would end the game.
Bisons reliever C. J. Nitkowski was up to the challenge, and Brown was called out on strikes to end the game - similar to Lewis' fate in the first game of the twinbill. In both games, the trailing team got the tying run to third in the final inning, but could not push the critical run across.
And as a result, the doubleheader ended in a split, with each team scoring eight runs on the evening. An entertaining and down-to-the wire night of baseball for all in Syracuse.
The series continues Tuesday with a single game in Syracuse.