(bisons.com) - The Buffalo Bisons were given some added firepower on the mound Friday night in their pursuit of the wild card.
Drew Hutchison, on MLB injury rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery a year ago Friday, made his Bisons debut. The 22-year-old had an adjustment to make against Triple-A hitters, however, as he has only seen Single- and Double-A lineups during his rehab.
He lasted just 3 2/3 innings, giving up six runs, including a grand slam, in taking the loss in a 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders before 13,311 at Coca-Cola Field. A night after claiming the top spot in the wild-card standings, the Herd fell a game back with Norfolk's victory Friday by losing the series finale, ending it three-game winning streak.
Hutchison, who was 5-3 with a 4.60 earned run average in his first MLB action with the Toronto Blue Jays last year, was not discouraged by some rough stretches in the outing, knowing how far he has come. Not pitching for the Blue Jays since June 15, 2012, due to a right ulnar collateral ligament sprain that led to the procedure, Hutchison did progress in his journey back to the majors, throwing 71 pitches.
"It seems like a mountain that you're just trying to get to the top to and you can't even see the top," Hutchison said. "Now, we're getting close, so you just try to take it day-by-day and small goals and little things at a time. So you just try to have that approach."
The biggest plus for Hutchison was being able to throw so many pitches, 40 of which went for strikes, but the RailRiders made sure he worked for everything in his sixth minor-league rehab appearance. The right-hander left the game after nearing his pitch count of 75, and allowed six hits, hit two batters and didn't issue a walk.
"I was fighting myself pretty much the whole night," said Hutchison, the Blue Jays' seventh-ranked prospect in 2012 according to MLB.com. "Got all my pitches in, that's about the only good thing. But it's all part of it. Just continue to go out there and try and make quality pitches. I didn't make enough of them tonight."
The effort Scranton/Wilkes-Barre forced on Hutchison, was no more evident than in the second inning.
Breezing through a perfect 19-pitch first, which included his lone strikeout, Hutchison, 22, found trouble in the second.
Dan Johnson led off the frame with a double and Randy Ruiz was plunked by a pitch to out the first two runners on. Hutchison was able to settle down and induce successive fly outs before Bobby Wilson's RBI single opened the game's scoring.
Hutchison was then in position to end the inning with no further damage, but hit his second batter of the inning, Brendan Harris, with a 1-2 pitch to load the bases. Melky Mesa made him pay for it, lifting a grand slam to dead center on the first pitch, breaking the game open.
"I was fighting it and then I got two outs and I was a pitch away from getting out of it and I just got a little predictable, that's what happened," said Hutchison of the 26-pitch frame. "I just need to make more quality pitches."
Again in the third, the first two RailRiders got aboard, Adonis Garcia leading off with a single and scoring on Johnson's double to increase the lead to 6-0. Mesa also drove in a run in the ninth with a single to finish 3 for 5 with five RBIs.
A few hiccups after being a pitch away from escaping a big inning that took just one swing, Hutchison's line can be taken with a grain of salt. He's already brushed the start aside and is looking forward to his second time out for the Herd.
"My arm feels good," Hutchison said. "I think it's just a matter of getting back out there and getting on the mound pitching and competing. I just need to keep progressing."
The Bisons offense came alive late, scoring one run in the seventh and two more in the eighth to cut the lead in half. Andy LaRoche provided the RBI double to plate Buffalo's initial run. Luis Jimenez and Ryan Goins added RBI singles in the eighth.
"You have to credit to (RailRiders' starter Brett Marshall), he really mixed pitches well, pitched us backwards an awful lot," manager Marty Brown said. "Until he really kind of got off his game and got a little bit tired, his pitch count went up, we didn't do much to get anything going early."