(bisons.com)-The Buffalo Bisons just keep battling.
Behind a strong start by Sean Nolin in a 2-0 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Saturday before 9,841 at Coca-Cola Field, the Herd inched closer to the International League wild-card lead. By virtue of answering a four-game losing streak earlier this week with their second consecutive win over the IronPigs, the Bisons sit 2 ½ games back of Rochester, which lost Saturday, for the IL's lone wild-card spot.
Nolin made his second start with the Herd after an Aug. 17 promotion to the team from Double-A New Hampshire and it was one Buffalo needed. He spun 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just five hits and three walks to pick up the huge victory. Despite the strong outing, Nolin admitted that his command wasn't at a desired level, but he was able to adjust accordingly.
"He just battled with everything he had," manager Marty Brown said. "Settled down a little bit, threw some good curve balls, just had to use everything to really get through his outing."
It was the fourth shutout of the season for the Herd, which has not allowed a run in 17 straight innings. In a 6-2 Buffalo win Friday night, the IronPigs struck for both of their runs in the first, but managed just one hit the rest of the way. Lehigh Valley was held to just seven hits Saturday.
"At this point of the year, it's always about pitching," Brown said. "We've got some starts here of late with Thad (Weber) (Friday) and Sean today and now we'll go out there with Kyle (Drabek) and we'll see what happens. He's been throwing the ball well, too."
The 99-pitch, four-strikeout performance by Nolin, 23, was complimented by a productive offensive showing by Buffalo, which saw 136 combined pitches from five IronPigs' pitchers.
"It could have been a lot worse, too," Brown said. "We could have put some runs on the board early and we didn't do it and had the right guys up to do it. Fortunately our pitching held out, and our hitters did a good job when they needed to."
Andy LaRoche led the offense, going 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and scored the deciding first run. The infielder led off the fourth by lining a double over the head of Michael Martinez in center field and he was advanced into scoring position at second on a Ricardo Nanita groundout. Ryan Langerhans' one-out single to right appeared it was only going to get LaRoche to third.
After all, LaRoche was thrown out at the plate in the second inning trying to score from second on another Langerhans' single, which followed his first double. But as Brown put on the stop sign at third, LaRoche alertly noticed Leandro Castro was taking his time fielding the ball and getting it into the infield. He briefly paused, then took off for home while the ball was lofted to second base, scoring easily on the play to give the game a score.
"He's swinging the bat right now as good as he has all year," Brown said. "Andy can be very streaky and hopefully he's in a good streak right now and he can help us push forward. He's been as consistent as anybody we've had all year."
Brad Glenn hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the fifth, scoring Mauro Gomez to push the lead to 2-0.
A new addition to the roster, Blake Gailen, also made his presence felt in the Bisons' lineup. Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier on Saturday from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Independent Atlantic League, Gailen was optioned to Buffalo and went 2 for 3 in his debut. The 28-year-old singled in his initial Triple-A at-bat in the third and singled again in the sixth.
Gailen said he was nervous going into his first at-bat, but they faded once he shot a liner into right field to lead off the third with a single.
"Kind of took the weight off the shoulders, got the monkey off the back a little bit," Gailen said. "Had a little bit of the jitters. It was definitely nice to get that thing out of the way and hopefully the floodgates are open now.
"There's a small amount of focus that goes into the jitters and the majority else goes into the game," Gailen added. "Fortunately I was able to maintain my focus for the game."
The bullpen picked up right where Nolin left off. Mickey Storey got the final out of the seventh when he relieved Nolin and he threw a clean eighth frame. Jeremy Jeffress allowed the first two batters to reach on singles in the ninth, but he got three straight outs to earn his third save.
The Herd leads the series, 2-1, with the finale being played Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Drabek (1-1, 2.57) will take the hill against Lehigh Valley left-hander Raul Valdes (3-4, 3.11).