(bisons.com)-The Buffalo Bisons have seen too much of the loss column for their liking lately.
A 3-2 loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Friday night left the Bisons under .500 for the first time of the season at 43-44, and they distanced themselves even further from the mark Saturday night. The Herd, which was as many as 10 games over .500 this season, fell to the Syracuse Chiefs, 4-3, in front of 8,080 at Coca-Cola Field to open a three-game series, dipping two games below .500.
It was a much different result than the last time these teams met, a monumental 27-9 Herd win in Syracuse, and was. The Bisons set team modern era records for runs and hits (29) in a game, as well as largest margin of victory, in the April 18 rout.
With the loss, the Herd has lost five of its six games in July, scoring just 10 runs during that stretch. Outside of a three-run ninth-inning rally, the month-long offensive struggle continued, with Chiefs' starter Ryan Tatusko tossing seven four-hit, shutout innings.
Though his team failed to generate much offense for a majority of the contest, manager Marty Brown was encouraged by the impressive surge at the end.
Down 4-0, Andy LaRoche drove one way out of the park in left with one out and Jim Negrych on to cut the lead in half. Eugenio Velez then walked, eventually scoring on a Mike McCoy RBI single, which left the tying run on second. Ryan Goins could not bring it in, as he was punched out by Erik Davis, who replaced Cole Kimball earlier after recording just one out, to end the game.
"You have to give (Tatusko) some credit because he did mix in cutters and located at both sides of the plate and we really struggled making any kind of adjustment to him," Brown said. "It was nice to see us get their closer up and get him in the game and have a run at giving us a chance to win the game."
During the first eight innings, Buffalo was unable to advance a baserunner past second. Four hits and a walk in the ninth nearly nullified that as a factor of the game, however.
The Bisons had several chances to get runs throughout in the game and avoid having to make a late rally, getting three lead-off baserunners.
Kevin Pillar and Mauro Gomez led off the fourth with back-to-back singles, though Jim Negrych then lined out to second, and Gomez was caught off the bag at first for the double play. In the fifth, Anthony Gose hit a double just in fair ground down the left-field line. He promptly got thrown out stealing third the first pitch of the next at-bat.
Changing the team's approach to games is not in the cards to try and end the recent slump. Brown plans on working to sustain the upbeat mindset that the Bisons have demonstrated all season.
"Keep working," Brown said. "That's basically what you have to do. You have to get them out there, feel positive about themselves when they go to the plate and keep working every day towards making sure that when they go to the plate, they can hit."
Syracuse hopped on Thad Weber early. Danny Espinosa had a first-inning triple and he scored the initial run of the night on a Will Rhymes double. Rhymes added another RBI, a single to right in the third, that made it 3-0.
Rhymes proved to be a tough out all night, leading the Chiefs' nine-hit attack with three to go with his two RBIs.
Weber allowed four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts over seven innings, ending a string of four consecutive quality starts entering the game. He was able to shake off the early runs allowed and retired the last six batters he faced.
Getting back to the team was in first place in the International League North for much of April and May - the Bisons are now in fourth - will be no cinch because of the grind a baseball season can present. But as Brown noted, there will be a valiant effort by the team to work through it.
"We've got guys that are working," Brown said. They understand we're in a bit of a lull right now. But it's about bringing your 'A' game from the first inning on. That 'A' game may not be what it normally is because everybody's run down a little bit, but that's baseball.
"That's why you play every day, you don't get a chance to regroup here. That's why it's an interesting game.
The series will conclude Sunday with a doubleheader. The first game is set for 1:05 p.m. and the second will start approximately 30 minutes after the end of Game One.