(bisons.com) - Moises Sierra made quite the return Thursday.
Scratched from the lineup the last two games, Sierra supplied the offense for the Buffalo Bisons in a doubleheader sweep of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Coca-Cola Field. He combined to score four runs, driving in just as many in seven-inning victories of 5-2 and 2-1 in the nightcap.
Stuck in a 1-for-12 slump, Sierra used his time off to his advantage, working with batting coach Joe Nunnally and applied his coaching in a big way. In Game One, the outfielder went 3 for 3, homering twice to drive in four and scored the winning run in both games.
Manager Marty Brown said Sierra, who experienced plenty of early-season success, looked much more relaxed at the plate after getting some added attention from the staff.
"(Sierra) had a couple work days and we sat him down and just told him he needed to finish strong," Brown said. "... You could see it was about his weight shift and where he was at. I think he felt much more comfortable (Thursday) and the results obviously showed it."
An exalted return of Sierra, who had his fifth three hit game of the year, is just what the doctor ordered for a Herd team in the heat of a playoff race.
The Herd (61-57) started Thursday third in the wild-card standings, 1 ½ games back of Norfolk and Pawtucket. But by the end of it, Norfolk lost and with Syracuse sweept a twinbill against the Red Sox, putting the Bisons in the lone wild card spot. Buffalo is technically in a tie with Norfolk (62-58) for first, but they break the draw by virtue of more percentage points, and sit a half-game ahead of the PawSox (61-58).
Sierra's first blast in the first game, a two-run shot to straightaway center in the second to open the scoring, ended a 114 at-bat homerless streak dating back to his last one on June 11, also against the RailRiders. He didn't stop there.
With the score tied 2-2 in the fifth, Sierra singled and scored the go-ahead run on Sean Ochinko's double down the left-field line. The outfielder ended his game with an exclamation point, providing insurance runs by tattooing a ball over left-field fence in the sixth. The ball touched the upper-half of the screen behind the wall and when it ricocheted off the netting, the Herd had a three-run advantage.
Thad Weber, who has become the ace of the Herd's staff, tossed his first complete game of the season, a four-hitter to improve to 6-4. It was the seventh time in 11 starts Weber provided seven innings of work.
"He's been pretty consistent, he really has," Brown said of Weber, who threw 86 pitches, 54 for strikes. "That's the kind of stuff he brings to the table about every start. And then, he really didn't have command of his curve ball. He just has a knack for pitching and pitches with what he has that day."
Giving up just the two earned runs, Weber used seven strikeouts, three of them catching the batter looking, to guide him to lowering his earned run average to 2.63. Also in his last 11 starts, a span of 72 2/3 innings, Weber has punched out 62.
Despite admittedly having just OK stuff, Weber grinded through the game, having his standard quality start.
"If that's an off-day right there, then I'll take it every time," Weber said. "... I've always kind of prided myself on throwing the innings, trying to be consistent as I can be. Every time I can go out and give us a solid outing, put us in a position to win the game, I'll take it."
Bobby Korecky put Buffalo in good position for the twinbill sweep, and did so while in an unfamiliar spot. Making his initial start of the season, and first since Aug. 26, 2012, the right-hander, who has made 22 relief appearances on the season, spun 4 2/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball.
Starting in large part to save a starter's arm for a nine-inning contest, Brown expected the game to be served as a bullpen day, with multiple relievers throwing a few innings each. But that was no loner needed given how well Korecky was throwing.
"Anytime I've given Bobby Korecky the ball, I've never gotten less than 100 percent," Brown said. "You feel good about him having the ball and he's all heart. ... He has grit and that's one of the reasons, I think, he pitched so long today."
After getting two quick outs in the fifth, Korecky saw his outing prolonged by a Clint Robinson fielding error followed by Melky Mesa single to put runners on first and second. With the Herd up 2-1, Brown decided to go to the bullpen, Korecky exiting to an appreciative cheer from the crowd.
John Stilson (4-2) came in to strike out Brent Lillibridge on four pitches for the final out of the frame and proceeded to toss a scoreless sixth, earning the win.
Andy LaRoche drove in Buffalo's only runs on a two-run single up the middle in the fourth, answering a second-inning Randy Ruiz homer that put the RailRiders up a run. Kevin Pillar led off the fourth with a single and Sierra was hit by a pitch two batters later. They each moved up 90 feet with two outs on a wild pitch, setting up LaRoche's game-winner.
The three-game series between the teams will conclude tomorrow at 7:05 before they both head to PNC Field, where the RailRiders will host a quick two-game set beginning Saturday.