(bisons.com) - Strong pitching combined with big plays on defense leads to a positive outcome.
The Bisons displayed both qualities against Columbus as the Herd defeated the Clippers 3-2 at Coca-Cola Field Wednesday night.
Buffalo is now just one and a half games behind Norfolk for the top wildcard spot in the International League.
The Herd displayed resilience and composure after being down 1-0 for the second straight night at home, but did not back down.
"(We had) better focus," said Bisons manager Marty Brown. "Even thought we were down 1-0, Matsuzaka was mixing his pitches and we weren't really committed. I think the inning we got the two runs guys were more focused and had better plans at those at-bats."
Herd starter Thad Weber threw seven strong innings in his ninth start of the season. The right-hander finished with four strikeouts, while allowing just four hits and one earned run on the way to his fourth win of the year.
In the third inning, Weber allowed his only run of the game after Ezequiel Carrera gave Columbus an early 1-0 lead with a single to left that scored Nate Spears from third base.
After that inning, Weber talked to Bisons pitching coach Bob Stanley in the dugout about adjustments he needed to make for the innings to come.
Weber felt he was not finishing his pitches well enough early on and needed to be more aggressive.
The conversation worked.
The right-hander went five more innings without allowing a run across the board in route to his fourth win of the season.
"I got back on track and back into what I normally do," Weber said. "Command the zone, mix pitches and get results. I thought I did that pretty well."
The Herd defense made two great plays in a row behind Weber in the second inning.
Left fielder Moises Sierra made a diving catch to his right on a line drive hit by Matt Carson. In the next at-bat, center fielder Kevin Pillar ran all the way to the wall to make and over-the-head catch for the final out of the inning and save a potential run from scoring early.
"I'm not a high strikeout guy," Weber said. "So, I definitely rely on the infield. I try to keep the ball on the ground more than I did, especially early, but those plays... could change a game. Those plays are big."
Buffalo grabbed the lead from Columbus in the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Sean Ochinko led off with a double to left field and shortstop Ryan Goins followed with a sacrifice bunt, reaching safely thanks to a throwing error by Clippers starter Diasuke Matsuzaka.
Third baseman Mike McCoy hit a ground ball to the shortstop and was called safe after a throwing error by Juan Diaz, advancing Goins to third. Right fielder Anthony Gose then hit a fly ball to center, allowing Goins to tag up and give the Bisons a 2-1 lead going into the sixth.
The Herd tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth after Sierra led off with a single to center. Sierra stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball by the catcher.
Ochinko hit a sharp grounder to third, forcing Columbus third baseman Ryan Rohlinger to dive and make a throw that was not handled by Spears. Sierra scored on the play to give Buffalo a 3-1 lead.
"We took advantage of the fact Matsuzaka is a little bit slower to the plate and we stole some bases," Brown said. "He can confuse young hitters sometimes. It was about commitment and really searching out a good pitch in the zone to hit."
Columbus got within one run in the eighth on an RBI-single from Rohlinger that scored Hernandez to cut the Herd lead to 3-2, but it was not enough as Buffalo's relievers closed out the game once again.
Left-hander Sergio Santos pitched the eighth inning, allowing one earned run while striking out one.
Closer Neil Wagner came in for the ninth to close out the game and struck out the side to pick up his 14th save of the season.
Sierra had at least two hits for the second night in a row, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
"He's swinging the bat better than before," Brown said of this outfielder. "He has put in some good work and the thing with (Sierra) is he just has to be focused. If he has a good plan, (Sierra) can be a really exciting player."