Sierra Delivers Dramatic Bisons Win

10:05 PM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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(bisons.com) - Moises Sierra didn't have much to lose.

That's what Toronto Blue Jays consultant George Bell told Sierra before he went up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning on a day he previously had four strikeouts in as many at-bats.

But each time up presents a new opportunity and Sierra made the most of his, as it was the antithesis of another strikeout. Sierra hit a walk-off two-out, two-run double high off the wall in left to give the Herd its third consecutive win, a 7-6 triumph over the Columbus Clippers before 11,180 at Coca-Cola Field Thursday afternoon.

Tim Fedroff, playing in to try and prevent the winning run on second from scoring on a single, gave chase to Sierra's hit. He made it to the wall but the ball was ultimately too well-struck, touching just below the yellow line and out of the left fielder's reach.

"That's Mo," catcher Mike Nickeas said. "That's exactly what he's going to do. Every at-bat is new for him and he's going to just do his thing every time and good things are going to happen to him."

It was the Bisons' fourth walk-off win of the season and they took the series finale in grand fashion. Sierra's hit capped off a four-run ninth that included four hits and a walk.

Trailing 6-3 at the start of the ninth, Clint Robinson led off the frame with the free pass, and by the time an out was recorded, it was a two-run game with the bases loaded. The run scored on a Nickeas RBI single and Kevin Pillar followed that with an RBI sacrifice fly. Sierra, who returned from the disabled list Monday, came up two batters later and laced the first pitch he saw from Nick Hagadone to drive home Anthony Gose and Munenori Kawasaki from third and second, respectively.

"It was a lot of smart offense, really, and we gave ourselves an opportunity," Brown said.

"He obviously loves big spots," Brown added of Sierra, saying he also had plenty of big hits when he managed him last year for Triple-A Las Vegas. "... Being injured and coming back, I think he's just happy to be on the field and running around right now with the hamstring injury he had. To see him go up and make adjustments, that's the big thing."

The Bisons won three games in the four-game series and ended their eight-game homestand 4-4 to put them at 53-51, just 1.5 games back of the lone International League wild-card spot and 3.5 games back of first place in the IL North.

The late rally wasn't exactly familiar territory for Buffalo. It entered the ninth inning 0-36 when trailing after eight, but was able to grind it out down the stretch.

"We hung in there and we haven't won a lot of games where we're down by a few runs in the eighth inning so to come back and walk off like that, that's what we needed right now," Nickeas said.

The Bisons did have previous experience of coming back from three runs on the day, however.

Columbus hopped on Justin Germano and the Herd early, getting a pair of two-out RBI hits, to give Columbus a 3-0 lead after the top of the first. Juan Diaz bounced a two-run double off the wall in left and Matt Carson followed by bringing in Diaz with a single.

In the second, Buffalo answered, getting the runs back by taking advantage of a Columbus miscue.

After a Clint Robinson walk with one out, Mike McCoy grounded one to first. But the throw to second for the force out was dropped by Juan Diaz, setting the Bisons up for a couple two-out hits of their own.

Nickeas drove a 2-2 pitch to right for a two-run single to get the Bisons on the board. Kevin Pillar then continued a torrid start to his Triple-A career. His third triple of the season, a liner to the gap in right-center, plated Nickeas to tie the score.

Both players finished with two hits, Pillar adding a double to go with his two RBIs while Nickeas had a game-high three RBIs.

The Clippers, with a run in the fourth and two in the fifth regained the advantage on Germano, whose afternoon was short-lived by his standards. The Bisons' Opening Day starter lasted 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since hurling three innings May 23 against Indianapolis.

The five earned runs allowed by Germano - he allowed six total - ends a string of nine consecutive starts in which he gave up three of fewer earned runs, dating back to June 2. Some of the starter's struggles derived from the leadoff hitter reaching in four of the five innings he was in the game.

Clippers' starter Carlos Carrasco on the other hand, had little trouble retiring leadoff men, and for that matter, any batter in his five innings of work. No Bison was able to start an inning by reaching safely against Carrasco, and 10 of the 15 outs he recorded came via the strikeout.

It was the second time the 26-year-old fanned double digit batters this season and the fifth occurrence in his Triple-A career.

"Carrasco had good stuff," Brown said. "It was 95 (mph) and he was spotting balls in and out. His slider was good, his change-up was good. He had really good stuff, fortunately he didn't get the win (Thursday), we did."

Good teams are able to overcome good pitching and that's what the Bisons were able to do. Though Carrasco was effective when in the game, he was forced to work. Buffalo hitters worked him deep into counts and Carrasco had to leave the game because of his high pitch count of 98.

Brown hopes the come-from-behind victory can be a momentous one as the team prepares for the final 44 games of the regular season and its pursuit of a postseason berth.

"I think these guys feel good about themselves," Brown said. "... These guys, they had some good arms throwing out there at us and we made the adjustment. Hopefully we can build on that and move forward."

Buffalo will hit the road for eight straight games with four against both of the Toledo Mud Hens and then the Clippers again, but not without confidence. The key for the Herd now is to build off its last three wins.

"This is the time of the year we want to start playing our best baseball," Nickeas said. "The next few weeks we need to start rolling into a point where can really make a playoff push. I think we have the team to do it, it's just a matter of the team getting hot now."

 

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