(bisons.com)-The Buffalo Bisons have a scheduled off-day Monday. But their bullpen had an unexpected one Sunday.
In two seven-inning games played against the Syracuse Chiefs at Coca-Cola Field , both Herd starters tossed complete games, the second such occurrence in the team's modern era. Dave Bush picked up the win in a 6-2 victory in Game One and pitching in his first game as a Bison, Chien-Ming Wang went the full seven in the second game, a 4-1 win.
The only other Bisons' starters to go both go the distance in a twinbill were Jon Niese and Nelson Figueroa on July 18, 2009, against the Toldeo Mud Hens. They not only had complete games, but shutouts, in wins of 1-0 and 2-0, respectively.
Wang, the two-time 19-game winner and 2006 AL Cy Young Award runner-up with the New York Yankees, demonstrated outstanding command of his principal pitch, the sinker, not allowing a walk. The pitch drove him to a three-hitter - including retiring the first nine batters - and he induced 12 ground ball outs, proof the pitch was working well.
His efficiency resembled that of when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball with the Yankees. He trusted his sinker and relied on his defense to make routine plays, leading to six innings of throwing less than 15 pitches. Wang hurled 83 pitches in the game, 53 for strikes, and faced just two over the minimum batters.
"He had good sink," manager Marty Brown said. "... He pounded the strike zone and just said 'Here it is, hit it, and if he can do something with it, I got defense behind.' That's nice to see. He didn't try to do too much, he just stayed within himself."
The Taiwan native was designated for assignment on Tuesday by the Toronto Blue Jays, with whom he was 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA in five starts. He began the season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and had a 2.33 ERA in nine starts. Brown noted he saw nothing but positives from Wang's bread and butter pitch Sunday, but needs to work on his secondary pitches to get back to MLB form.
"He's going to have to do some work with his curve ball and his slider, but today he was very effective with just his sinker," Brown said.
The opposite end of Wang's battery, Sean Ochinko, provided most of the run support in the second game. His first Triple-A home run, a screaming line drive that got over the left-field fence in a hurry, was the difference in the game. It untied the scoreless game, giving Buffalo a 3-0 lead in the second.
"It's always an adjustment coming up to a new level and getting used to the guys and everybody," Ochinko said. "It just felt good to drive in some runs and give us an early lead."
The other pitcher etched into the Bisons' record book, Bush, was essentially just as effective in Game One.
The veteran right-hander, who made his 14th start, came one punch out away from tying his season-high, recording eight. A high percentage of strikes guided his performance, tossing 59 of 86 pitches for strikes, but that was nothing new for Bush.
"You know Dave is going to go out and give you everything he has and today being ahead in the zone, really helped him," Brown said of Bush, who allowed just one walk. "He got ahead in the count and kept stuff down in the zone. Really positive outing for Dave, we needed it."
A three-run first was all of the aid Bush needed to improve his record to 8-6. The Bisons' team-leader in wins allowed five hits and the only runs allowed came on a Will Rhymes two-run home run. His ERA was reduced to 3.99, also tops on the team among qualifying pitchers.
Buffalo was able to find its stroke at the plate in both games, something that has been missing lately. Entering Game One having played seven July games, the Herd hadn't scored more than three runs all month.
Scoring early and establishing early leads has been a challenge for the Bisons over the last few weeks. But it was a main factor in sweeping the twinbill and snapping their four-game losing streak, while also getting back to the .500 mark.
Chiefs' starter Yunesky Maya allowed three runs on four hits and threw 27 pitches while facing seven Bisons in the first frame of Game One, enabling Bush to settle in.
"It's always comforting to the starter to get a lead," Brown said. "I think it's nice that pitchers can relax and understand that they have a lead to work with, rather than us constantly playing catch-up. Good to have a lead."
Andy LaRoche led the Bisons with three hits to go with a run scored in the first game. All of the third baseman's hits were singles, including an RBI on a liner to left in the fifth to conclude the game's scoring.
Playing the role of LaRoche's accomplice in jumpstarting the day's offense, Kevin Pillar continued his torrid start in Triple-A in the first inning. After Ryan Goins reached on a throwing error by shortstop Danny Espinosa, Pillar lifted a 2-2 pitch just over the left-field wall for his fourth of the season. Eugenio Velez added an RBI single later in the inning, giving the Herd an early 3-0 lead.
Pillar added a double in the third and with a walk in the second game, he has reached base in his first 18 Triple-A games. The outfielder has 25 hits, and with his big Game One, 14 of them have gone for extra bases.
Syracuse was able to get two of the runs back in the third on Rhymes' homer, which barely avoided being stymied by Anthony Gose at the right-field fence. It was part of a 3-for-3 game for Rhymes, who was a triple shy of the cycle in the game and went 3 for 4 against the Herd Saturday.
The one-run lead was short-lived. Gose's clutch two-out, two-run single to center with the bases loaded gave Bush a bigger cushion. The right-hander cruised the rest of the way, retiring nine of the final 11 batters.
The Bisons won the two-day, three-game series against Syracuse, 2-1, with the wins. They will have a day off Monday before heading to Syracuse Tuesday for the start of a two-game series. First pitch is at 7:00 p.m.