(bisons.com)-After the Buffalo Bisons shut them out Saturday night, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs returned the favor a day later.
The IronPigs defeated the Herd, 7-0, in the final afternoon game of the season at Coca-Cola Field in front of 12,208 Sunday. Not only did it earn Lehigh Valley four-game series split, but they also tied Buffalo for third place in the International League wild-card standings, 2 ½ games behind the leader, Rochester.
There were openings for Buffalo to plate runs, especially early, when they squandered chances to establish a lead. In each of the first, third and fourth innings, the Bisons' had at least one runner in scoring position with less than one out. They went 0 for 5 in those situations, finishing the day 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10 on base.
The Bisons had a particularly favorable opportunity to get runs in the first inning. Mike McCoy's walk led off the first and Gomez hit a one-out double into the left-field corner, advancing McCoy to third. Clint Robinson flied out to shortstop the next at-bat and the threat was put to rest when Brad Glenn flew out to right.
"It set the tone for the whole ball game," manager Marty Brown said of his team, which has seven hits. "It's probably a different ball game if we get those runners in early in the game. A better plan is all it is. It's those guys that really have a better idea of what a pitcher's trying to do to them and how they negate that. We get that done, it could be a different game. Who knows?"
Four innings were started with a leadoff Bisons' base-runner, including Glenn's single in the sixth. Glenn was moved up to second on a groundout to third and then Ryan Langerhans walked. But Sean Ochinko then bounced into a 5-4-3 inning-ending twin-killing.
Starter Kyle Drabek, working his way back to Toronto after having Tommy John surgery last June, was cruising in his third appearance, second start, for the Bisons. He got through the first three innings relatively unscathed, allowing no runs, just two hits and fanning a pair while throwing 30 of his 44 pitches for strikes.
But he found some trouble in the fourth frame that abruptly out an end to his afternoon. The IronPigs tagged Drabek for three runs on five hits in the frame, chasing him from the game after recording just one out. The 25-year-old pitcher hurled 24 pitches to six batters, and his outing ended with three straight hits, two of them for RBIs.
Prior to the fourth, the right-hander seemed poised to go five innings despite being on a pitch count of 65-70. Drabek, who started at Coca-Cola Field for the first time, tossed 68 pitches, the most he's thrown as a Bison. It's encouraging on a steep climb back from major elbow surgery that Drabek seems in good health.
"Arm felt good the whole game, which I'm excited about," Drabek said. "In the fourth inning I kind of started getting behind guys so I had to give them a pitch to hit. I thought they hit some pretty good pitches but I left some up, as well."
Tyler Henson's RBI fielder's choice to short began the scoring for Lehigh Valley in the fourth and that was followed by Michael Martinez's double into the left-field bullpen scored Henson. Leandro Castro made it three consecutive IronPigs with an RBI, lacing a long single off the left-field wall, plating Martinez for a 3-0 lead.
Bobby Korecky relieved Drabek after a Steven Lerud single and struck out the final two batters of the frame. All three of the runs Drabek gave up were earned, surrendering seven hits and the two punch-outs.
"There were some pitches that were low that they got hits on, some that were left a little bit up," Drabek said. "The first three innings I had a great 'D' behind me, and then in the fourth, they just hit them where they weren't."
Drabek fell behind in numerous counts, a concern expressed by Brown following the game. But it was an outing that can be built upon.
"He'd miss down two, three different times in a row before he really got back in the zone and forced himself to make a pitch," Brown said. "Those are things he really needs to concentrate on, pitching ahead in the count. But all in all, I thought it was some progress."
Sean Susdorf added on to the IronPigs' lead late in the game, smashing a two-run homer to right in the seventh off Bobby Korecky and tacking on a ninth-inning RBI double. He finished 3 for 5.
The only aspect that will change for both team as far as their next series' goes, is the location. They are back at it against each other Monday to start a two-day, three-game set at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa., with a doubleheader.
Game One will begin at 6:05 p.m. and will see Bisons' right-hander Drew Hutchison (0-2, 7.36) go up against Lehigh Valley left-hander Tom Cochran (3-7, 5.25). The Herd will start right-hander Justin Germano (8-9, 4.59) in the nightcap while the IronPigs' hurler is to be announced.