(bisons.com) - After a three-day break for the Triple-A All-Star game, the Buffalo Bisons' bats may have experience a bit of a hangover Thursday night.
They were limited to seven hits in their first game back from the break, a 4-2 loss to the Toledo Mud Hens in front of 7,881 at Coca-Cola Field. It was the first matchup between the teams this season and began a four-game set that will run through Sunday.
"I hope," manager Marty Brown said on whether or the stagnant offense was a product of the layoff. "It was a bit disappointing how we went after their lefty (starter Kyle Lobstein). I think we all knew what he had and our approach wasn't good and it took us too long to really make any kind of adjustments early on. ... Just not a real good plan. We'll have to regroup."
The Herd went down 4-0 after three, but still had chances to push runs across. Twice in the first five innings a runner reached third without scoring. One of those runners was Kevin Pillar.
By way of a first-inning, two-out triple and walk in the fourth, Pillar has reached base in 24 of his first 25 games at Triple-A, with 16 of his 33 hits being for extra bases. Until a double in the fifth by Eugenio Velez, the other Bison to be stranded at third, Pillar was the only Buffalo player to reach base.
Starter Thad Weber began the game nicely, getting two quick outs, before he then ran into some two-out trouble. With two gone in the first, four consecutive Mud Hens reached by virtue of a walk, two hits and an error en route to exiting the half-inning with a 1-0 lead.
Avisail Garcia, who walked, came around to score on a bases-loaded ground ball off the bat of Mike Cervenak to third base, where Mike McCoy had the ball go in and out of his mitt for an error. Weber experienced rare control issues in the 28-pitch inning, managing to throw just 14 strikes.
Toledo struck for three more in the third on three hits and a walk. Garcia, who finished with a game-high three hits, smoked a liner to the fence in right for an RBI double to increase the advantage to a pair. Ben Guez made it 3-0 with two-strike single to center that scored Nick Castellanos, who had two hits and scored the final run of the frame on a wild pitch by Weber.
The game was almost blown wide open in the fourth, but the Herd was able to keep within striking distance. After the Mud Hens loaded the bases with one out, Castellanos lined out to shortstop Ryan Goins, who flipped to Munenori Kawasaki at second for the double play.
It ended the inning for Weber, who did not have the customary solid outing by his standards.
The right-hander went five innings, the first time in six starts he did not hurl at least six. He allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits and four walks while fanning four. The walk total was Weber's highest in eight starts with Buffalo, as he normally has outstanding command, entering the night having issued just seven free passes all year.
The Herd's bullpen did its job after Weber exited, working in association with an offense that plated two seventh-inning runs to try and mount a rally.
Buddy Carlyle, Sergio Santos, Jeremy Jeffress and Brad Lincoln each tossed an inning of scoreless relief, combining to allow two hits and to punch out six.
"They needed to pitch, too," Brown said. "They've been off, a lot of guys, seven days, eight days. With the outing we had, it was nice to see those guys come in and pitch well because they've stayed ready. That's a tribute to them and their work ethic."
Santos, on MLB rehab assignment after landing on the disabled list April 15 with a right triceps strain, pitched extremely well in the seventh. The righty, who had a 2.08 ERA in five games with the Toronto Blue Jays before his injury, struck out the side in the seventh, a one-out single by Garcia being the only blemish.
Santos actually noted having a runner reach base was beneficial to him, giving the appearance a more authentic feel.
"To me, that's what I need to work on," Santos said. "It feels so foreign sometimes when there's runners on base and there is things actually happening. So, it was nice, it kind of felt more game-like than in situations that I've faced during the season. It good to kind of have the pressure of somebody on base."
The Bisons were finally able to get to Lobstein in the seventh, chasing him from the game after three straight hits started the frame.
Jim Negrych led off with a single and Mauro Gomez followed with a double to the left to advance Negrych to third, demonstrating what made the two of them starters in Wednesday All-Star game in Reno, Nev. Sean Ochinko extended his hitting streak to eight games the next at-bat with an RBI single that put Buffalo on the board.
Jose Ortega limited the damage by striking the side out looking after inheriting runners on first and third, the only other run coming across being Gomez on a wild pitch. The Bisons finished 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Ochinko went 1 for 4 and since his streak began July 6, he is 10 for 27 with all three of his Triple-A home runs and six RBIs. A few tweaks to where he stands in the batter's box and places his hands on the bat have been keys to Ochinko's recent stellar performance.
"I feel great at the plate," Ochinko said. "I made some adjustments with my stance and it seems like they've been paying off in the game, put my work in. I just have to keep taking it one day at a time."
Buffalo again got baserunners on in the ninth with former Detroit Tigers' closer Jose Valverde in to close the game. Anthony Gose was the tying run on first with two outs, but he was caught stealing second on a double steal with Velez to end the game.